Exposure. Eric Paddock is the Denver Art Museum's first full-fledged photo curator to head up his own new department. To unveil the permanent gallery for photography in the Ponti tower, he's put together Exposure: Photos From the Vault, highlighting a range of gems from the DAM's collection. Collected in fits and spurts, the museum's photo holdings are very uneven, but as Paddock proves with this show, there are a lot of masterworks in it anyway. As could be expected, considering the impressive Wolf Collection of early Western landscapes, there are quite a few pieces by the pioneers of that field, notably Carleton Watkins. And there are a number of well-known photos by famous modern photographers like Diane Arbus, Ansel Adams and Garry Winogrand. Another important feature of the exhibit is the inclusion of many Colorado photographers, including Kevin O'Connell and Wes Kennedy. This aspect is not unexpected coming from a curator who spent most of his career at the Colorado Historical Society. Through October 31, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed May 20.
The Furniture of Eero Saarinen. One of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art's specialties is decor. That focus is highlighted in The Furniture of Eero Saarinen: Designs for Everyday Living, a traveling exhibition dedicated to the work of the famous American architect. Though the show was put together by the Knoll Museum, Kirkland director Hugh Grant has supplemented it with pieces from his collection and from the architect's daughter, Susan Saarinen, a landscape designer who lives in our area. The elder Saarinen is best known for his Gateway Arch in St. Louis, but he also designed chairs and tables that have become classics of American furniture. His most radical concept is illustrated in the "Tulip" furniture that counteracted "the slum of legs" that he believed plagued the typical interior. In these works, tables and chairs, are on singular bases that resemble wine glass stems writ large. In addition to Saarinen's own designs, Grant has added works by others from the same era. Through November 28 at the Kirkland Museum, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org.
Maria Cristina Carlini. This is an outdoor sculpture show dedicated to a contemporary Italian artist. On display at both the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design campus and the Auraria Campus, it represents an unprecedented act of cooperation between the two institutions and was curated by Cortney Stell, director of RMCAD's Philip J. Steele Gallery. The four large Carlinis are scattered around the beautiful RMCAD campus, which has a series of small historic buildings and lovely historic flower beds. One of them, "Out and Inside," has been given to the campus and will remain there after the show comes down. The work is like a pair of three-dimensional puzzle pieces set on end. The Auraria portion of the show includes three more monumental Carlinis, all sited near the Emmanuel Gallery. Among these is "Madre," which has been given to Auraria and is now part of its permanent collection. Through October 1 at RMCAD, 1600 Pierce Street, Lakewood, 303-753-6046, www.rmcad.edu, and the Auraria campus, Colfax Avenue and Speer Boulevard. Reviewed August 12.
Perceptions. In a real sense, this show is a response to the Biennial of the Americas, which ran through the end of July; some exhibits, like this one, extend into September. Bobbi Walker, owner of Walker Fine Art, was disheartened that the Biennial had so little to do with art in Colorado, so she was moved to assemble this powerful group show highlighting local talent. Inside the gallery's entrance, there's an abstract sculpture by John Murphy made from found metal vessels welded together; it's a marvelous update of John Chamberlain's junk-car assemblages. Hanging from the ceiling is an exciting Sabin Aell installation referencing classic modernism that's made from billboard fragments and old and colorful telephone wires. Beyond is a multi-part floor installation that includes small aspen trees by Kim Ferrer. Around the corner are digital prints of plastic buildings, and a wall's worth of little plastic blobs on wires by Lauri Lynnxe Murphy. The tour de force in the show is the hyper-realistic figural group made of brown paper by Emma Hardy, though I do wish the heartbeat soundtrack had been left out. Through September 4 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, www.walkerfineart.com. Reviewed August 26.
Moore in the Gardens. Henry Moore, who died in 1986, was Great Britain's most important modern sculptor. Born in 1898, he began to create artwork shortly after World War I, becoming internationally famous by the 1930s. Moore was one of a legion of important artists who responded to Picasso's surrealism, but he made the style his own. This traveling exhibit, sponsored by the Henry Moore Foundation, has been installed on the grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens, with two pieces at the DBG annex at Chatfield (8500 Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton). The main part of the exhibit begins in the Boettcher Memorial Center, where a collection of the artist's tools and maquettes are crowded into showcases, and where a single work has been installed in a fountain. Most of the other pieces have been displayed around the gardens. The monumental works, typically in bronze, look absolutely perfect in the landscaped settings. Through January 31 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3500, www.botanicgardens.org. Reviewed June 17.
Shape & Spirit. This wonderful selection of antique bamboo articles is the first show in the newly unveiled Walter and Mona Lutz Gallery in Denver Art Museum's Ponti building. The Lutzes 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. They collected ahead of the curve, allowing them to find exquisite things in a wide range of categories. There are baskets, of course, but also sculptures and lanterns, fans and brush-pots, trays and tea-ceremony utensils. Curator Ron Otsuka selected 200 items from the Lutz collection, which have been given to the DAM. Through September 19 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-866-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
— Michael Paglia