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Looking for the Face.... The half-dozen shows at MCA Denver are collectively titled Looking for the Face I Had Before the World Was Made. Adam Lerner, the museum's director, acted as lead curator for the exhibits with new hire Nora Burnett Abrams acting as his assistant. Michaël Borremans is a solo dominated by contemporary realist paintings. The diminutive paintings have a decidedly Old Master-ish character. Less compelling is Samuel Beckett, a spoken monologue on DVD from the author's "Not I" taken from "Beckett on Film," by Neil Jordan. Lorraine O'Grady: Miscegenated Family Album comprises 16 diptychs of found images in which O'Grady put together shots from her family album with images of an ancient Egyptian artifact. William Stockman is dedicated to some recent monumental drawings by the well-recognized local artist. The oddest show here, A. G. Rizzoli, is made up of meticulously done drawings depicting hypothetical buildings, and the last of the group is Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 10,483,200 Minutes, which records a series of pseudo-collaborations. Through May 23 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, Reviewed March 18.

Love Lines. This show was organized by Jennifer Doran and Jim Robischon, the owners of Denver's most distinguished commercial space, Robischon Gallery. The pair selected artists from the gallery's stable, along with artists associated with RedLine. The result is a wide-ranging group show that's absolutely dynamite — though the theme is fairly vague. A major category in Love Lines is contemporary representational art with strong paintings by Wes Hempel, Jerry Kunkel, Terry Campbell, Ian Fisher and Jack Balas, all doing paintings. A different kind of representational imagery, grounded in expressionism, is seen in the Mimo Paladino print and the related stylistic painting by Margaret Neumann. In both, the human bodies are exaggerated and awkwardly posed. Even further afield from the natural is Jeff Page's "The Other Organ," a sensational abstraction based on the form of the human brain. Also noteworthy are works by Jonathan Saiz, Halim Alkarim and his brother, Sami Alkarim. And there's a show-within-the-show dedicated to contemporary Chinese art. Through April 19 at RedLine, 2350 Arapahoe Street, 303-296-4448, Reviewed March 18.

Ray Tomasso. The Byers-Evans House Gallery — in the carriage house — is hosting New Works in Paper: Ray Tomasso, a solo comprised of recent work by this well-known Colorado artist. The space is not ideal for exhibiting art, but Tomasso and his wife, Diane, have done a good job of making the most of it. As indicated in the title, Tomasso's medium of choice is paper, but these aren't works on paper; rather, the pieces are made out of paper. Following an elaborate process that begins with cotton rags reduced to pulp, Tomasso casts layers of wet sheets that result in abstract bas-relief panels that look like hybrids of paintings and sculptures. His technique in paper-making was self-taught, though he was trained in the related fields of ceramics and printmaking. Unlike many artists who work with paper, Tomasso does not start with colored pulp; instead, he uses un-dyed pulp that he then paints and seals. The results are very engaging because of the topography of the various forms and the handling of the colors. Most of the works are purely abstract, while others contain hints of the Western landscape. Through May 30 at the Byers-Evans House Gallery, 1310 Bannock Street, 303-620-4933,

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's 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. Extended to April 17 at Z Art Department, 1136 Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432. Reviewed February 18.

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 September 19 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-866-5000,

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia

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