Adam Helms. This solo in the MCA's Paper Works Gallery is the New York artist's first museum show anywhere. In his works on paper and in a monumental sculpture that conjures up a shooting blind, Helms explores political themes, especially armed struggle. He takes images of different radical and extremist movements from different places and times and makes copies of them. Then he combines them into singular images to create archetypes. In "Shadow: Portrait of a Jihadi," for instance, Helms has taken a shot of what looks like an American soldier in 1960s Vietnam and blackened out the face in the manner of the hooded Islamic terrorists of today. His technique is as interesting as his imagery, and in this piece, he has silkscreen-printed both sides of a sheet of translucent vellum, lending it an almost hallucinogenic character. Through January 18 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The fall opener at the Center for Visual Art is a conscientious survey of the careers of Christo and Jeanne-Claude as seen through their personal print collection documenting their conceptual work that began in the 1960s. The exhibit, which includes more than a hundred works, is a major effort and clearly proves that, like Warhol, Christo and Jeanne-Claude accurately anticipated the direction of contemporary art over the intervening four decades. Beginning in '63, Christo began to fantasize about covering landmarks around the world in cloth secured by cables. The show includes ideas such as covering the Flatiron Building in New York and the Pont Alexandre in Paris. The prints and drawings are all credited solely to Christo, while credit for the environmental pieces, like "Over the River," is shared with Jeanne-Claude. "Over the River" is set for Southern Colorado and will be the second piece by the artists in the state; "Valley Curtain" was installed in Rifle Gap back in the '70s.Through November 1 at the Metro State College Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207, www.metrostatecva.org. Reviewed September 4.
Damien Hirst. You'd have to be living under a rock — or have no interest in contemporary art — not to know that Damien Hirst is a superstar, and that everything he makes is worth millions of dollars apiece. The tight solo at MCA Denver (formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver) is not the first time that local art audiences have had a chance to see Hirst's creations in person, but it is his first single-artist show anywhere in the American West. Hirst's "Natural History" series of dead animals in cases is surely his most famous type of work. There's an incredible one in the MCA show called "Saint Sebastian: Exquisite Pain," made up of a bullock that's been pierced with arrows. It's simultaneously compelling and repellent. "Saint Sebastian" dominates the Large Works Gallery, but there are three other Hirst pieces, including two very different paintings from his "Butterfly" series, in which actual butterflies are affixed to the paintings, and one of his post-minimal "Medicine Cabinets." It's apparent that Hirst is brilliant, with an eye for beauty, though his mind goes in for ugliness. Through August 30 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed October 16.
Daniel Richter: A Major Survey. Christoph Heinrich, the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum, must be a workaholic — the latest evidence being this exhibit featuring more than fifty Daniel Richter paintings, most of which are monumental in size. Heinrich sees the youthful Richter as among the most important painters working in Germany today. Richter credits French impressionism among his inspirational sources, but he is more of an heir to early-twentieth-century expressionists like Edvard Munch and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. He is also connected to modernists like Asger Jorn, whom Richter believes to be among his aesthetic foundations. In most of these paintings, Richter has tried to cram in as much visual material as he can. He also applies paint in many different ways and in an array of hues so that they explode with form and color. This DAM solo reveals Richter's talent and, even more so, his heroic ambition. Through January 11 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed October 9.
Three on Fire. Surely one of the smartest moves Sandra Phillips has made is to use her gallery to feature contemporary ceramics. Three on Fire, which showcases the work of three nationally significant ceramics artists, is the latest in a series on the topic. The artists are Maynard Tischler and Martha Daniels, both associated with Colorado, and Don Reitz, who lives in Arizona. Though Three on Fire is mostly about ceramics, it's impossible to ignore the show-stopping wall hangings by Tischler, who has been associated with pop art since the 1960s. In this category is "This Is Not a Model," a hyper-realistic version of a World War II-era tank. Daniels, who recently relocated to New Mexico, is represented by large floor sculptures and a group of zany takes on tea bowls. The last of the trio is legendary studio ceramicist Don Reitz, whose work is in museums around the world. Through November 1 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969, www.thesandraphillipsgallery.com. Reviewed September 25.
Wynne/Wynne. Hugh Grant, director of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, has relentlessly carried the torch for Colorado's art history, doing more to promote awareness of this important legacy than anyone. Wynne/Wynne is the latest in a series of Kirkland shows saluting artists who came to the fore between the '50s and the '70s. It highlights the careers of Al and Lou Wynne, an abstract painter and a modernist ceramicist, respectively. The Wynnes have lived and worked in the Black Forest north of Colorado Springs for decades, each creating significant bodies of work. Further, Al is among the most important abstract painters to have ever worked here. Wynne/Wynne was co-curated by well-known painter Tracy Felix, who selected all the works and unfortunately embraced diversity instead of cohesiveness in Al's work – something that makes it impossible to notice the artist's signature style. Felix was able to convey Lou's career cogently, however. Through January 4 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-4774, www.kirklandmuseum.org. Reviewed October 23.