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 of his pieces for its permanent collection. Through January 12 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3200, botanicgardens.org. Reviewed September 19.
Clark Richert. In the few years it's been in business, Gildar Gallery has mostly showcased young and up-and-coming artists, but with Dimension and Symmetry: Clark Richert, the intimate space on Broadway has moved to Denver's big time, as Richert is among the best-known artists in the state. The show comes complete with an essay by Cydney Payton, former director of MCA Denver, and was co-curated by Robin Rule, the artist's longtime representative. It features ten major paintings, some digital prints and a projection. Though all the paintings reveal Richert's interest in mathematical formulas — formulas he uses to determine his patterns — and in straight lines, the pieces actually vary quite a bit. There are the expected all-over patterns — his signature approach — some carried out in vaporous shades, others in toned-up colors. And there are paintings depicting actual landscapes, including one of the world-famous art community Drop City, which Richert and others founded in the 1960s. The painting, which takes an archly geometric approach to perspective, depicts a scene populated by domed structures made from wrecked cars. Through January 18 at Gildar Gallery, 82 South Broadway, 303-993-4474, gildargallery.com.
Court to Cafe. Angelica Daneo, the Denver Art Museum's associate curator of painting and sculpture, has seriously reinterpreted a traveling show called Masters of French Art, by imposing a historic structure that guided her selections. Renamed Court to Cafe, the works come from the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum, with the show being part of the DAM's larger Passport to Paris. In a series of rooms in the Anschutz Gallery, Daneo has laid out the development of France through its art from the time of kings and queens, to the French Revolution and its aftermath, to the rise of Paris as a modern city. The exhibit begins in the 17th and 18th centuries and concludes with the great masters of the 19th century that made France the center of the art world at that time. Daneo hit a home run with this one, but then again, how can you go wrong with a series of rooms that culminate with the rise of impressionism and post-impressionism? Who can't appreciate that stuff? Through February 9 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org; tickets are required. Reviewed November 28.
Nature as Muse. This homegrown blockbuster — part of the Passport to Paris series — was curated by Denver Art Museum director Christoph Heinrich, who's proven over and over that he's a curator at heart. To organize it, Heinrich mined the rich vein of impressionism in the museum's permanent collection and combined works from it with selections from the collection of Frederic C. Hamilton, for whom the wing is named. These Hamilton paintings have for the most part not been exhibited in public in anyone's memory. The show starts with the foundational work of the realists and quickly shifts to the pioneering work of the impressionists; then there's a section devoted to American followers of the French-based movement, and finally, a salute to Monet, the star of Nature as Muse, many of whose paintings are included, notably the DAM's "Waterloo Bridge." In fact, right now there are eleven Monets on view at the DAM — an unprecedented number for Denver — with eight of them being paintings, and all but two of those are in this show. Through February 9 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org; tickets are required. Reviewed November 28.
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Sherry Wiggins and Jane McMahon. More than most Denver venues, the Ice Cube Gallery co-op has promoted conceptual art, and the current pair of solos is the most recent example. As you enter, to the left is Sherry Wiggins: Practice, which is about the way the artist creates. Wiggins began with a 1940s surrealist film by Maya Deren (on view in the gallery), and then she posed for photos taken by Robert Kitilla based on passages from the film. She combines these photos with drawings of simple shapes that are also inspired by portions of the film. The presentation is very elegant. Across the space is Jane McMahan: Collapse, which takes on the topic of beehive collapse. The project began with McMahan becoming a beekeeper. In the back space is a multi-channel video installation of bees building their hives, but up front is the sad ending of the story. For unknown reasons, the hives collapsed, as has been happening across the country, and neither science nor McMahan has any idea why. She's included fragments of the distorted combs, some with dead bees still attached. Through December 7 at Ice Cube Gallery, 3320 Walnut Street, 303-292-1822, icecubegallery.com.