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Summer is group-show time, and Bill Havu and Nick Ryan have put together a great exhibit that looks at artists who combine representational imagery with abstract sensibilities. The exhibit, installed on both the main level and the mezzanine, includes the work of three painters and one sculptor. As you walk in, you're confronted by a monumental Marc Berghaus sculpture in which a life-sized male nude is encased in an elaborate metal grid of boxes with mechanical fish inside — along with one live one. On the wall around it are remarkably fresh-looking paintings by Laura Truitt that have architectonic forms expressively conveyed through smears of thick pigment. Also on the main level are landscapes by Lori Buntin, which are rendered photographically but with unexpected hard-edged divisions marking shifts in the palette. Finally, upstairs, there are some sweet little landscapes in an abstract-expressionist style by Sara Sanderson that are very strong and extremely sophisticated. Truitt and Sanderson are both promising emerging artists. Through July 26 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, williamhavugallery.com. Reviewed July 17.
Paper Work. Cecily Cullen, creative director at Metropolitan State University's Center for Visual Art, has put together an exhibit that surveys artists using paper to create 3-D compositions. Participating artists hail from Colorado and around the country. Paper is a familiar art material that's typically used as a base for drawings or watercolors, but for these artists, it's something to use for creating sculptures or pulling off an all-encompassing environment, as Liz Miller did with "Splendiferous Jungle Warfare." The piece was specifically created for this show and fills an entire gallery. Though Miller gets the tour-de-force award, the other participating artists — Melissa Jay Craig, Jennifer Ghormley, Anne Hallam, Bovey Lee, Diane Martonis, Dawn McFadden, Mia Pearlman and Susan Porteous — contribute ambitious and striking works. One of the most remarkable features of these pieces is how meticulously crafted they are; Lee and Martonis, in particular, have cut the papers used for their works with all the precision of a surgeon. Talk about hand-to-eye coordination! Through August 2 at the MSU Center for Visual Art, 965 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-5207, msudenver.edu/cva.
Tom Wesselmann. Beyond Pop: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective is the Denver Art Museum's summer blockbuster. Although Wesselmann was part of the initial group of artists who launched pop art in the '60s, his accomplishments are not as well remembered as those of his contemporaries. Maybe it's because his chosen topics — naked women in pinup poses and smokers — are more outré now than they were when he made them. This exhibit begins with his 1950s collages, but by 1961 he had arrived at his first mature phase: his "Great American Nude" series. The influence of Matisse is clear, and though Wesselmann referenced other artists over the years, Matisse was clearly his principal source. This was the beginning of an extremely fertile period for the artist, but he seems to have run out of steam by 1980. He got a second wind in the late '80s, however, creating cut-metal bas-relief sculptures until his death in 2004. Wesselmann's work has not been exhibited much in the past twenty years, making this over-the-top show a rare treat. Through September 14 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org.
Unbound: Sculpture in the Field. Since the Arvada Center sits on a very large site, exhibitions manager Collin Parson and assistant curator Kristen Bueb decided recently to use a small part of it — a seventeen-acre field just to the south of the complex — as a xeric sculpture garden. Parson and Bueb invited Cynthia Madden Leitner of the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood to partner with the center in the effort. MOA has made a specialty of placing large pieces of sculpture in various spots around metro Denver, and this technical expertise was very desirable. The group then put together a list of sculptors they wanted to include, and the final roster of fifteen artists was established, with most being represented by two pieces. The participating artists, all of whom live in Colorado and work in abstraction or conceptual abstraction, are Vanessa Clarke, Emmett Culligan, John Ferguson, Erick Johnson, Andy Libertone, Nancy Lovendahl, Robert Mangold, Patrick Marold, David Mazza, Andy Miller, Charles Parson, Carl Reed, Joe Riché, Kevin Robb and Bill Vielehr. Through September 30, 2015, at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Reviewed July 10.