Lines and Grids. This show, organized by Marks Aardsma, who serves not only as curator, but as participating artist as well, is the fourth in a series of exhibits she's put together called "Art of the Real." Aardsma is interested in the nature of painting and has invited eight others who share her interests — namely, in using reduced palettes limited to white, gray and black, and employing stripped-down compositions that exemplify pure abstraction. Though the influence of minimalism is easy to see, some of the artists actually embrace expressionism, which is antithetical to the less-is-more style, marking many pieces here as post-minimal. Aardsma has included a number of Colorado artists: David Sawyer, who is interested in lines; Tonia Bonnell, who uses delicate scribbles; Sophia Dixon Dillo, who lays on white-on-white surfaces; and Scott Holdeman, who orchestrates drawn bars. There are also artists from across the country: Diane McGregor is represented by smudged patterns, Kate Beck by linear pieces, Corey Postiglione by interlocking forms, and Sharon Swidler by grids of blocks. Through June 1 at Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, spacegallery.org.
Nick Cave. Though it's billed separately — and requires separate tickets — Nick Cave: Sojourn is the pièce de résistance 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 to September 22 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
Western Not Western. The idea behind this show is to upend expectations about Western art, and although there are landscapes, for example, they are mostly not traditional and not what we'd expect. And some are either abstracted or conventionalized. So the work is Western in subject but not Western in style — hence the catchy title. There are some artists who are straightforward representational painters, such as Jeff Aeling and James Cook, even hyperrealist Rick Dula. Others, like Sushe Felix, Tracy Felix and Tony Ortega, translate Western themes into their own individual and highly idiosyncratic styles. Other works are associated with the West more conceptually, like the abstract-expressionist-related scenes by Sam Scott, the fractured imagery of Lui Ferreyra, Emilio Lobato's Latino stripes, or the smeary action paintings by the late Jeremy Hillhouse. Among the other artists who fill out the show is gallery newcomer Nancy Lovendahl, who is mostly associated with earth art. Here, though, she lays out the concept with tabletop ceramics instead of her well-known monumental installations. Through September 28 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, williamhavugallery.com.
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