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.
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.
Jeff Aeling, Rick Dula and Jeanette Pasin Sloan. Contemporary realism is the dominant theme that binds these three elegant solos at Havu. The main attraction is Jeff Aeling, dedicated to the St. Louis-based painter, who spent many years in Colorado. Aeling's subject is the Great Plains — or, more specifically, the skies over them. His handsome Western-style landscapes in wide black frames capture the minimalism of the prairie topography juxtaposed with the complicated atmospheric events in the clouds overhead. In the salon, toward the back, is Rick Dula, featuring an assortment of this Denver artist's hyperrealist paintings, including some from his well-known series dedicated to the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building. Dula's related mural, "A Moment in Time: Here" is one of the standouts in Embrace!, on view now at the DAM. On the mezzanine at Havu, there's Jeanette Pasin Sloan, made up of fanatically realistic still-life watercolors. Like many photo-realism pioneers, Sloan revels in reflective and translucent surfaces that show off her remarkable drafting skill. Through February 20 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com. Reviewed February 4.
Joellyn Duesberry. Subtitled Landscape Survey, this show includes paintings and works on paper done over the past twenty years by this Colorado artist, who is best known for her abstracted takes on the landscape. The selection here is impressively large, with many substantial paintings and a nice group of monotypes. One of the first things viewers see when they enter the gallery is the monumental "Entry Into Roxborough Park, Colorado," which dramatically renders a natural scene not far south of Denver. The other Duesberrys aren't limited to settings in the West, but there is a certain Western sensibility that seems to inform most of them. Her very consistent work illustrates her taste for dramatic rendering that has been done quickly. Parts of her pictures are sketched in with little more than scribbles. Then there's the character of her palette: The colors refer to those in nature but aren't completely naturalistic. Through February 27 at Gallery 1261, 1261 Delaware Street, 303-571-1261, www.gallery1261.com. Reviewed February 4.
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.
Sue Simon, Barbara Carpenter and Judith Cohn. Despite their being presented side by side, often in close quarters, the issue of how different member shows at co-ops work together typically is not even considered. But that's exactly what's happening at Spark right now, where there are three exhibits that are thoroughly compatible, all of them being made up of conceptual abstract work about nature. In the west gallery is Sue Simon: Water, in which the artist continues her exploration of abstraction informed by math and science. She does this by putting together forms, abstract fields and equations. In the east gallery is Barbara Carpenter: H2O. Carpenter's specialty is the found abstract executed in a color photo, so these digitized prints of water and water-related images come as something of a surprise. The last of the group is Judith Cohn: Terracotta Sketches, on display in the north gallery. Cohn works in ceramics, but her ideas relate to sculpture rather than pottery. Two pieces that stand out are the wall installation made of tabs of twisted clay and the spire of clunky slabs covered in graffiti. Through February 20 at Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, www.sparkgallery.com. Reviewed February 11.