Catalyst. The beautiful grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens are the ideal place to mount an outdoor sculpture show, and over the past few years, there has been one such presentation after another. This year, the theme is contemporary sculptors in Colorado. The pieces are picturesquely sited throughout in clearings or along the walkways, but since the place is a labyrinth of trails, make sure to get a map to guide you through. Lisa Eldred, DBG director of exhibitions, ably selected some of the top names in the field, but as she's pointed out, the show is hardly encyclopedic; still, she did attempt to include some of the most famous practitioners in the medium, notably James Surls, Linda Fleming and Robert Mangold. Other Colorado sculpture stars in the show are Emmett Culligan, Kim Dickey, Nancy Lovendahl, Terry Maker, Andy Miller, Patrick Marold, Pard Morrison, Carl Reed and Yoshitomo Saito. The work of Saito, based on twigs cast in bronze, seems perfect in this sylvan setting, and the DBG ought to acquire one for its permanent collection. Through January 12 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3200, botanicgardens.org.
Influence. The new Mai Wyn Fine Art on Santa Fe Drive occupies the former Sandra Phillips Gallery, which is now in the Golden Triangle. The remodeled venue combines a small if impressive exhibition room with a studio for owner/painter Mai Wyn Schantz. The inaugural show, Influence, includes works by artists who influence Schantz, though none of her own pieces are on display. There's the art star from her high-school years in Wisconsin, Gregory Euclide, who is now nationally known, along with three other artists from her home state: Margaret Lockwood, Charles Munch and Tom Uttech. Schantz moved to Denver in the '90s, and it is here that the show's autobiographical theme picks up. She shared a studio with sculptor Bryan Andrews and studied with sculptor Chuck Parson and painters Clark Richert and Bruce Price, all when she was a student at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. Finally, Schantz gets hyper-personal by including her partner, Zach Smith. Despite the lack of connections other than through Schantz's life, the diverse pieces in Influence hang together. Through August 10 at Mai Wyn Fine Art, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 720-252-0500, maiwyn.com. Reviewed August 1.
Nick Cave. Though it's billed separately — and requires separate tickets — Nick Cave: Sojourn is the pièce de résistance
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of Spun, the over-the-top salute to textiles comprising a dozen shows at the Denver Art Museum. In the center of the entry space is a found baptismal font surmounted by a bower of steel rods accented with strings of beads and little ceramic birds. This is an exemplar of Cave's latest interest: elaborate, funky assemblages that lie somewhere between sculpture and installation. Though there's plenty of childlike wonder to behold in his work — crocheted doilies, bird figurines, sock monkeys — the pieces displayed in the steady progression of connected rooms create what Cave sees as a "sacred space." The show also includes a nice selection of Cave's remarkable Soundsuits, androgynous disguises sometimes used in performances that were originally protest pieces sparked by the Rodney King beating in the '90s. There is also a group of found-object assemblage sculptures, like the baptismal font, that represent a new direction for the artist. Through September 22 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed July 26.
Pattern Play. Pattern Play: The Contemporary Designs of Jacqueline Groag, at the Denver Art Museum, is one of many shows that make up Spun, a museum-wide event that's anchored by fabrics and other materials. The pieces on view were selected by Darrin Alfred, curator of the architecture, design and graphics department, and were mostly taken from the vast collection of modernist textiles assembled by Jill Wiltse and Kirk Brown. Born in Czechoslovakia, Groag went to Vienna to study with Josef Hoffman, then to Paris, where she designed fabrics for Chanel, among others. With her husband, Jacques Groag, she moved to England on the eve of World War II. It was in post-war Britain that she emerged as a major player in pattern design. This show includes many examples of her fabrics — in the form of beautifully preserved swatches — as well as drawings and sketches that were done in preparation for the finished products. There are also designs for other materials like laminate tabletops. Through September 8 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
Perception. For whatever reason, Colorado has a strong tradition of post-painterly abstraction in the forms of hard-edged and pattern painting. The show Perception: Color/Line/Pattern, at the Arvada Center, taps into this current by showcasing historic and contemporary renditions of the sensibility in a handsome exhibit that fills out the capacious lower-level galleries. The show pretty much has all the usual suspects in the historic realm, including Charles Bunnell, Angelo di Benedetto, Otto Bach and Bev Rosen, all of whom were experimenting with geometry in the '60s and '70s, as was the younger David Yust. Coming hard on the heels of this group are the Criss Cross artists out of Boulder, notably the guru, George Woodman, a University of Colorado professor, and his students, including Clark Richert and Charles DiJulio. Doing his own thing with dots right here in Denver was Vance Kirkland, whose work relates to op art. The show also includes the work of contemporary artists reinterpreting the same ideas, such as Jaime Correjo, Adam Holloway, Wendi Harford, Emilio Lobato, Lewis McInnis and others. Through August 25 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org.
Sloan, Sloan and Swab. The William Havu Gallery is currently host to three solos, each highlighting a painter doing some variation of hyper-realism. In the entry space and the space immediately to the right is Jeanette Pasin Sloan, featuring the Santa Fe artist's still-life scenes in various mediums including oil, gouache and watercolor. Sloan likes to render objects with reflective surfaces that pick up the patterns of the cloths on which they've been placed. There's an interesting series of prints that lay out her methods. In the window space and under the mezzanine is Kevin Sloan, made up of enigmatic narrative paintings that recall the art of the nineteenth century — in particular, that of John James Audubon — except for the surrealist touches, like the orange extension cords wrapped around some of the birds, or the pocket watches held by some of the animals. Upstairs on the mezzanine is Laurel Swab, which comprises a selection of diminutive still-life scenes with dark grounds and subjects that display photographic accuracy in their every detail. Through August 10 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, williamhavugallery.com.