Outside in 303.This summer feature at the Museo de las Amesricas is absolutely spectacular, with each of the included artists being given lots of space to stretch out. Conceived and organized by Museo director Maruca Salazar with help from the Denver Art Museum's Gwen Chanzit, the show looks at a generation of young Latino artists who began their careers as graffiti taggers. The group's mentor is Jack Avila, who is represented by an incredible wrap-around mural and installation in the large back gallery. Also doing standout work is Mario Zoots; known best for his collages, Zoots is also a painter, as evidenced here in his mural. Josiah Lopez has rendered full-figure studies of the people in the neighborhood, done in a traditional realist style on separate sheets of paper spread across the wall. Then there are some funny — and great — neo-pop portraits by Victoriano Rivera that relate well to the abstracted pop paintings by "Kans 89" (Josh Rogers). All of the works reflect the shared heritage of the artists, but none are more clearly Mexican than those by Javier Fidelis Flores and Gabriel Salazar. Through September 24 at the Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401, museo.org. Reviewed July 24.
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: Five Installations. In this strong outing, each of five local artists takes over one of the lower-level galleries at the Arvada Center with an installation. In the first gallery, Sophia Dixon Dillo uses transparent filament stretched from wall to wall to make the magical "Forming Light." Next is Rian Kerrane's "Knitting Wallpaper," in which scores of objects are suspended from the ceiling to create a jungle-like atmosphere. A soundtrack of Kerrane knitting and motion-activated electric mixers add a cacophony of sounds and movements to the dense tangle of objects. In the center space, Laleh Mehran's "Entropic Order" features a robotic device at the ceiling that guides a weighted stylus hanging almost to the floor. The stylus pushes through a bed of black sand, leaving behind elaborate geometric patterns. In one of the back galleries is Katie Caron's "Drosscapes," in which garishly colored tendrils hang over a reflecting "pool." Finally, there are remarkable inflated works made of stitched vinyl forming "Enrapture: My Microscopic Life-cycle," by Nicole Banowetz, which was put together right in the gallery. Through August 31 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.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.
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