Allen True's West. Allen Tupper True was Denver's premier muralist during the first third of the twentieth century. Sadly, many of his commissions have been painted over or were lost when the buildings they were in were demolished. In an act of cooperation, the three big cultural institutions on the Civic Center are jointly presenting a three-part blockbuster in True's honor, the first time in many years such a collaboration has been attempted. At the Denver Public Library, on the fifth floor, is Allen True and American Illustration, examining his early work in illustration. In the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building is Allen True the Fine Artist, which examines his easel painting career. And finally, there's Art for the Public: Allen True's Murals, on the lower level of the Colorado History Museum. The shows demonstrate that True was a top talent and will help to correct the fact that he's mostly been forgotten. Through March 28 at the Denver Public Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1111, www.denverlibrary.org; the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org; Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, 303-866-3682, www.coloradohistory.org. Reviewed January 7.
Colin Livingston: The Big Idea. This show is an outgrowth of Colin Livingston's ideas about art as a commodity, the kind of thing he's been working on for the past several years. At one point, he created paintings in the colors that were predicted to be hot in home decorating, and another time, he had buyers of his work pick from a pre-determined set of palettes, patterns, logos and slogans, which was the title of his last show at Plus. This time, Livingston has transformed the main space at Plus into a convincing facsimile of a retail shop where the entire inventory has been made by him. The walls are lined with open-front cabinets where packaged artworks hang by tabs. Tables and stands cover the floor, while signs have been suspended from the ceiling indicating different departments within the imaginary shop. There's even a cash-and-wrap station. Livingston is raising so many issues about the nature of art, about art as a commodity, and about what collecting art is all about, that's it's positively head-spinning. A must-see if you're at all interested in the meaning of art. Through January 16, at Plus Gallery, 2501 Larimer Street, 720-394-8484, www.plusgallery.com. Reviewed December 24.
Embrace! Christoph Heinrich, the Denver Art Museum's director-in-waiting, has unveiled his over-the-top installation show, Embrace! The sprawling exhibit meanders through the four levels of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, with the atrium becoming the central axis. The idea was to have artists create pieces in response to the outlandish spaces found throughout the unconventional building. Heinrich favored works that allow viewers to walk into them, and since he's partial to painting, that medium plays the starring role (rather than new media, as might be expected). Heinrich selected seventeen artists, and they make for an international cast, including Katharina Grosse from Germany, China's Zhong Biao and El Anatsui from Ghana. But there's also a trio of Denver artists — Rick Dula, John McEnroe and Timothy Weaver, working together with his students from the University of Denver — and bravo to Heinrich for that. Through April 4 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed November 26.
Jim Milmoe: Choice. Jim Milmoe is a legend in the local photo scene, with a career that's more than six decades long (he's lived Colorado since the 1940s, when he graduated from Colorado College). The photos displayed in this show at the Byers-Evans House briefly survey his considerable output. Some date back over half a century, while others were just done during the last few months. Over that considerable period, Milmoe has done a wide range of things, and in Choice, he highlights some of the ongoing series he's worked on — and continues to explore — including "People," "Found Art," Nature," "Cemeteries," "Architectural Details," "Abstraction" and "Humor." The photos reflect many of the technical changes that have affected photography over the years; for instance, some were made with film while others are digital. He's also worked in both color and black-and-white imagery. But if there's one thing that does link nearly all the disparate approaches he's taken, it's Milmoe's abiding interest in doing straight-on shots. Through January 31 at the Byers-Evans House Gallery, 1310 Bannock Street, 303-620-4933, www.coloradohistory.org/be.
Robert Mangold. The dean of Denver's modern sculptors is the subject of a solo for the first time in more than four years. Simply titled Robert Mangold, it is made up of fairly recent work and contains examples of many well-known series, including his famous "Anemotive Kinetics," which are wind-driven spheres made up of colorful metal scoops mounted on rods, and his "PTTSAAES," sculptures, which do not move but are meant to suggest movement. These linear compositions purportedly record the hypothetical and seemingly random movements of an object as suggested by the acronym that stands for "Point Traveling Through Space at an Erratic Speed." A special feature of this exhibit is the fact that it almost didn't happen, since the seventy-something Mangold had a brush with death last year and might not have been around to complete the pieces. It's an absolute must-see. Through January 30 at Artyard Contemporary Sculpture, 1251 South Pearl Street, 303-777-3219, www.artyardsculpture.com. Reviewed December 3.
Shape & Spirit. This wonderful selection of antique bamboo articles is the first show in the newly unveiled Walter and Mona Lutz Gallery on the fifth floor of the Denver Art Museum's Ponti building. Walter and Mona Lutz, for whom the gallery is named, began collecting bamboo from throughout Japan, where they lived; in the 1960s, they expanded their collecting to include bamboo pieces from the rest of Asia. The couple collected ahead of the curve, allowing them to find exquisite things in a wide range of categories. There are baskets, of course, which is what most people might think of when the idea of objects made of bamboo comes up, but there are also sculptures and lanterns, fans and brush-pots, trays and tea-ceremony utensils, among a wide range of both decorative and utilitarian objects. For Shape & Spirit, curator Ron Otsuka selected 200 items from the Lutz collection, which have been given to the DAM. And he has intelligently and beautifully installed them in minimalist-designed showcases made especially for the new gallery. Through March 31 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-866-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
Streams of Modernism. A smart-looking survey of modern design put together by guest curators Katherine and Michael McCoy, this show features some of the many important pieces of furniture — mostly chairs — that are part of the Kirkland's impressive permanent collection. The McCoys' narrative is that designers influence one another, and they've taken a doctrinaire approach to the topic, creating a direct line that connects early-twentieth-century vanguard works to pieces done in the late twentieth century. The survey begins with works by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh before moving on to Bauhaus masters like Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer; it continues with objects by the Cranbrook fellows, such as Charles Eames and Harry Bertoia, and concludes with objects by Italian designers of the '50s through the '70s, notably Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass. The show is striking, not only because of the pieces included, but also as a result of the installation that incorporates graphics based on portraits of the designers in the show. Through January 24 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org. Reviewed November 12.