Cross Currents. This ambitious show, put together by CVA creative director Cecily Cullen, showcases contemporary art by Native Americans from across the country. It is a followup to Currents, a show Cullen did at the old LoDo CVA in 2009 that was on the same theme and was equally intelligent in its conception. (Incidentally, Currents marked Cullen's curatorial debut.) In a way, this show picks up where that one left off, and it includes three artists — Nicholas Galanin, Marie Watt and Will Wilson — who were also in the earlier version. Cullen points out that in the earlier show, the three were cast as emerging artists, but in the current endeavor, they are the old guard, firmly established in their careers. Thanks to the series of small galleries that make up the CVA, all of the artists are essentially given small, clearly defined solos — but taken together, they successfully form the overall thematic group show. The other featured artists are Cannupahanska, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Merritt Johnson, Sarah Ortegon, Wendy Red Star and Sarah Sense. Through February 8 at the MSU Center for Visual Art, 965 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-5207, msudenver.edu/cva.
Gayle Crites and Andrew Beckham. As she usually does, Tina Goodwin has paired a couple of solos at her namesake gallery, with one in the larger front space and the other in the smaller corridor in back. At first glance, Gayle Crites: The Cloth That Binds appears to be an exhibit of works on paper, and broadly speaking, it is, except that the "paper" turns out to be hammered bark that the artist has gathered from around the world. Crites creates abstract or abstracted compositions that refer to mostly natural forms and often feature lots of delicate lines in ink that are accented with dyes. The whole thing is very elegant, a quality reinforced by the second show at Goodwin, Andrew Beckham: Firmament, which is made up of a suite of digital photo montages. These pieces, shown previously at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, began with Beckham's fascination with nineteenth-century star charts, which became a touchstone for him in this work. But he combines the maps with images from his everyday life and from his travels. It would be an understatement to call the resulting pieces complex. Through February 22 at Goodwin Fine Art, 1255 Delaware Street, 303-573-1255, goodwinfineart.com. Reviewed January 30.
Movers and Shapers. Sandra Phillips has put together a show at her namesake gallery featuring influential women artists who are active in the region. In a way, it's a companion to The Transit of Venus at RedLine, though only one artist, Virginia Maitland, appears in both shows. As at RedLine, there is no stylistic unity to the Phillips show; the artists are linked solely by gender, and not because their works are interrelated. (An exception is the case of Carley Warren and Virginia Folkestad, but that's almost accidental; both do conceptual installations often featuring the use of wood.) The two abstract artists, Ania Gola-Kumor and the aforementioned Maitland, couldn't be more different in their approaches, with Gola-Kumor creating dense and multi-dimensional works on paper while Maitland does simple color-field compositions. Finally, there's contemporary realist Irene Delka McCray, whose work is very in-your-face -- a quality that also describes her signature approach to the figure, as exemplified here by a twisting nude male, his blue veins visible beneath his white skin. Through March 1 at the Sandra Phillips Gallery, 420 West 12th Avenue, 303-573-5969, thesandraphillipsgallery.com.
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.