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.
Collin Parson and Kevin Baer. Making art is rarely a skill that's handed down from parent to child, and that's what makes the two solos at Pirate so special. In the front space is recent work by Collin Parson, who's the son of well-known Colorado sculptor Charles Parson, and in the associates' space are pieces by Kevin Baer, whose mother is established local sculptor Barbara Baer. And while all four are doing contemporary work, these shows prove that the two younger artists' styles didn't descend directly from their parents. For Collin Parson: Square Variations, the room has been plunged into darkness and the walls lined with fiberboard boxes that house recessed LEDs in various colors. The works are very elegant, and taken together, they create their own coherent atmosphere. Kevin Baer: Electric Funeral is a very compatible show that also takes up the topic of light — in this case, lighted plastic suspension sculptures along with a mirror-clad niche. Viewers are invited to put on glasses that make everything look iridescent. Through February 7 at Pirate Contemporary Art, 3655 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058, www.pirateartonline.com.
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.
Remembering Dale Chisman. There's no question that Dale Chisman, who died in 2008, was one of the most important artists to have ever worked in Colorado, and his output set a high standard. Furthermore, Chisman had direct connections to other important Colorado artists like Martha Epp and Mary Chenoweth, both of whom were teachers of his. Like them, Chisman was an heir to the abstract-expressionist approach that dominated twentieth-century American art. This exhibit highlights his work from the late '80s and early '90s and includes a group of his remarkable paintings and an even larger selection of luscious prints. Z Art Department owner Randy Roberts and gallery director Paul Hughes have done a beautiful job with the installation, giving the show a strong visual statement. Chisman strengths included his excellent sense for color and his automatist approach to the compositions. The prints, nearly all of which were pulled by Mark Lunning at his Open Press, are closely related to the paintings and include small, intimate works as well as large, elaborate ones. Through February 27 at Z Art Department, 1136 Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432.
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.