Lisa Spivak, director of the Phillip J. Steele Gallery (6875 East Evans Avenue, 303-753-6046), has long made an art form out of getting the most from the least. You see, until a month or so ago, the Steele was little more than a corner of the lobby in the design building of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. And we're not talking about a grand lobby space here, either, since the Steele had the same mundane character as the design building itself. But now the lobby has been substantially supplemented by nearly 2,000 square feet of additional space from a pair of former classrooms immediately adjacent to it. This will allow Spivak to present large solos such as the one planned for world-famous Denver sculptor Robert Mangold this fall, or to present two solos side by side, as she's doing right now.

In the front part of the grand new Steele is Jean Schiff: Collective Cultures. Schiff, now in partial retirement, is a well-known and highly regarded teacher. She's taught at various college campuses around town, including Auraria. In these pieces, she is represented by sculptural jewelry that is virtually unwearable, as well as mixed-watermedia pieces that incorporate ready-made elements, especially plastic gemstones. Both the jewelry and the works on paper explore non-Western art (mostly Asian and African) in a Western way; hence the exhibit's subtitle.

Beyond Collective Cultures is Ania Gola-Kumor: Mixed Media Big and Small. Gola-Kumor is also a respected art teacher, right here at RMCAD. I often think of Gola-Kumor as one of the region's best and most overlooked abstract painters, and this show is made up of a gorgeous group of her paintings. Gola-Kumor puts on layer after layer of pigment, with the lower layers, which consist of bright colors, peeking through to the surface in places. The top layers are monochromatic, with dry and neutral tones such as cream and brown predominating. Another feature of Gola-Kumor's work is the use of clearly defined shapes that are expressive though still geometric, as in "Untitled" (seen above). There are a lot of marvelous paintings here, including the remarkable "Untitled #16," in which fifty very small works on paper are hung together as a single work, making it big and small at the same time.

There are only a couple days left to catch these shows; both close on September 29.

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