Altar Girls. Two very different exhibits roughly collide into one another in the middle of the Museo de las Américas. One part, put together by Museo curator Kristi Martens, is an extravaganza of santos made mostly in Colorado, Mexico and New Mexico, and primarily culled from a recent gift to the Museo, the Rickenbaugh Santos Collection. On display are renditions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santa Barbara and Mary Magdalene, among others. The second part of Altar Girls is a selection of contemporary art by women from the Americas, which was curated by Museo director Patti Ortiz. Photography exploring women's roles plays a major part in this half, including pieces by Christina Kahlo, Flavia Da Rin and Estela Izuel. There's also some contemporary realism by Carolina Rodriguez, who works in pencil, and by Grupo Mondongo, a group that "draws" with clay. The only artist who bridges the two halves of Altar Girls is Judy Miranda, from Denver, whose pieces are contemporary santos. Women saints, women artists, Altar Girls — get it? Through July 1 at the Museo de las Américas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401. Reviewed May 3.
Colorado & the West. Every summer for many years, David Cook Fine Art has presented a show on the history of regional art, and this year's version, Colorado & the West, rivals a museum exhibit. The show starts off with a rare example of Jan Matulka's oeuvre, an abstracted landscape from 1925. Matulka, a European emigré, is an important artist whose work is rarely exhibited, so it's worth checking out the show just to catch a look at this piece. The influence of cubism was important in Western art, especially in New Mexico and Colorado, and in addition to the Matulka's references to it, there's the spectacular cubo-regionalist black watercolor of a rainstorm by Charles Bunnell and a fully cubist composition of a figural group by Frank Vavra. Expressionism was another dominant force in the art of the West, and there are two wonderful though modest landscapes by Birger Sandzén (whose work is an immediate predecessor to abstract expressionism). In addition to Colorado artists, the show includes pieces by famous New Mexico transcendentalist painters Alfred Morang and Raymond Jonson. Through June 30 at David Cook Fine Art, 1637 Wazee Street, 303-623-8181. Reviewed May 24.
Japanese Art. The spectacular exhibit Japanese Art From the Colorado Collection of Kimiko and John Powers is installed in the Gallagher Family Gallery of the Denver Art Museum's new Hamilton Building. It was put together by Ron Otsuka, the esteemed curator of Asian art who has built an important collection during his thirty-plus years at the institution. Decades ago, Otsuka established a friendship with the Powerses, which is why they put their collection of more than 300 Japanese masterworks on long-term loan with the DAM. It's from this hoard that Otsuka chose the more than 100 objects he included in Japanese Art. As collectors, the Powerses were old-fashioned connoisseurs who chose things based on their innate fineness. "They were certainly very selective," says Otsuka in something of an understatement, considering the high quality of these pieces. The Powerses, who are also known for their stunning modern-art collection, sought out Japanese works of art that anticipate modernism despite that fact that they are hundreds of years old. Through September 9 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed January 25.
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Kim Dickey: Cold Pastoral. Artist Kim Dickey, who teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has turned her solo at Rule Gallery into a single coherent installation made up of large-format color photos, ceramic sculptures and mirrored tiles that refer to historic French gardens. Most of the photos, carried out in light jet prints, are hung at wide intervals on the gallery's long unbroken south wall, which seems to go on and on because Dickey lined the back wall with the mirrored tiles. Evenly spaced between the photos are a series of ceramic sculptures based on potted topiary plants, the kind of thing seen in the photos. Several sculptures have integral concrete pedestals that work well with the ceramic plants on top of them. The title, Cold Pastoral, seems inordinately apt, as this show makes Rule feel chilly even on a hot summer day. Through July 7 at Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473. Reviewed May 31.
Masterpieces of Colorado Landscape. The world-famous scenery of the nearby Colorado Rockies — the gorgeous mountains, not the sorry baseball team — has attracted artists to our state for well over a century. This broad narrative provides a foundation for Masterpieces of Colorado Landscape at Golden's Foothills Art Center. The show includes a large selection of historic landscape paintings and juxtaposes them with an equally large assortment of contemporary landscape paintings. It's a traveling show put together by Rose Glaser Fredrick to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Colorado Council on the Arts. Fredrick chose historic artists who worked in impressionism, expressionism and cubo-regionalism, including Birger Sandzén, Ernest Lawson, Vance Kirkland, Charles Bunnell and Frank Vavra. Sadly, the show falls apart as it moves into contemporary landscape painting because Fredrick tried to cover too much stylistic ground. Still, there are some great things included, such as the pieces by Chuck Forsman, Tracy Felix and Joe Arnold. Through July 8 at Foothills Art Center, 809 Fifteenth Street, Golden, 303-279-9470. Reviewed May 24.
Manuel Neri. This solo at Robischon Gallery is a spectacular presentation filled with breathtaking sculptures and works on paper by Manuel Neri, the well-known California artist. One interesting fact about Neri is that he's that rare bird who is part of the current contemporary art scene and who also has a place in art history. Neri came of age as part of the 1960s funk movement in California and slowly transformed his work by adding a classical aesthetic, which he'd picked up during frequent working trips to Italy. The Robischon exhibit is dominated by large-scale sculptures, including a handful of monumental works in fragile plaster and some more durable bronzes. Despite all the heavy-duty expressiveness of Neri's surfaces and his efforts to simplify the form of the figure, there's no question that the subject of nearly all his pieces is a nude woman. In the Viewing Room, there's a little group show that's very compatible with the Neri feature, including C-print photos of blurry figures by Bill Armstrong and billboard-sized neo-expressionist oil-on-canvas paintings of nudes by Stefan Kleinschuster. Through June 16 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed May 31.
RADAR. With its outlandish appearance, the Denver Art Museum's new Frederic C. Hamilton Building has overshadowed what's on display inside. There are a few exceptions to this, and first among them is RADAR: Selections From the Collection of Vicki & Kent Logan, installed in the Anschutz Gallery on the second level. Put together by Dianne Vanderlip, the outgoing curator of the Modern and Contemporary Art department, RADAR includes sections on the cutting edge in Asia, Europe and America. Many of the works were donated by the Logans, who live in Vail and are among the most important collectors of contemporary art in the country — and, in recent years, among the DAM's most significant donors, having given as gifts over 200 works of art and promised hundreds more. Some of the biggest names in international art are in the show, among them Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Zhang Huan, Damien Hirst, Jenny Saville, Michel Majerus, Neo Rauch, Carroll Dunham, Kiki Smith, George Condo and Fred Tomaselli, all represented by major works. An absolute must-see. Through July 15 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed December 28, 2006.