Brilliant. If you have any interest in modernism or fine craft — even if you aren't particularly interested in jewelry — you'll find something to marvel over at the Denver Art Museum's winter blockbuster Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century. The show is a visual marathon, with so many things included that it's downright exhausting to see everything. There are some 200 artifacts from the Cartier collection alone, which is maintained by the company, and an additional 55 pieces coming from an array of private collectors. A key revelation is that Cartier began to embrace art deco two decades earlier than just about any other jeweler, thus making the firm a pioneer of modernist design of any kind. The Denver-only exhibit was put together by DAM curator Margaret Young-Sanchez; this was a surprise, as her ordinary stock-in-trade is pre-Columbian art and not modern French jewelry. But she confessed to a lifelong interest in the material. In contrast to the more-is-more aesthetic of most of the diamond-encrusted pieces in the show, there's an unexpected minimalist current in the form of the men's wristwatches. Through March 15 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed December 18.
Don Quade & Brandon Reese. The current duet at Walker Fine Art is Don Quade & Brandon Reese: Unchartered. Quade has been creating abstract paintings for two decades but has developed a recent interest in prints; both types of work are included in this show. His signature is to lay down a color field as a background, then accent it with small pictorial elements, some representational and others abstract. Quade arranges the small elements — both representational and abstract — on the field in what would seem to be a random way, so that they cover the picture plane in an all-over arrangement. Reese, who trained with some of the most important ceramic artists of the last century — most notably Peter Voulkos — lives in Oklahoma, where he teaches ceramics at Oklahoma State University. The ceramic components he makes are technically remarkable, both for their size and their airiness (and therefore precariousness), being made of skeletal and linear elements that are stacked one on top of another like building blocks. Through January 10 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Ave #A, 303-355-8955, walkerfineart.com. Reviewed November 20.
Myopia.Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of the 1970s new-wave rock group DEVO, has had a parallel career in the visual arts and was a budding artist before he became a musician. Celebrities masquerading as artists is all the rage — think James Franco or Miley Cyrus — which made the idea of Myopia, Mothersbaugh's solo at the MCA, a little suspect. But doubts about his commitment to art are immediately dispelled by the quality of the work in the show. From the first gallery — which is given over to Mothersbaugh's pre-DEVO efforts — onward (the show occupies all three floors of the MCA), even the most skeptical will be convinced of Mothersbaugh's dedication, particularly because he's sustained it for over forty years. The exhibit was curated by MCA director Adam Lerner, who met Mothersbaugh at, of all places, the Denver County Fair, and who came away believing him to be among the greatest creative forces of our time. The show also benefits from a gorgeous exhibition design by Ben Griswold. Through April 12 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org.
Unbound: Sculpture in the Field. Since the Arvada Center sits on a very large site, exhibitions manager Collin Parson and assistant curator Kristin Bueb decided recently to use a small part of it – a seventeen-acre field just to the south of the complex – as a xeric sculpture garden. Parson and Bueb invited Cynthia Madden Leitner, of the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood, to partner with the Venter in the effort. The MOA has made a specialty of placing large pieces of sculpture in various spots around metro Denver, and that technical expertise was very desirable. The group put together a list of sculptors they wanted to include, and the final roster of fifteen artists was established, with most being represented by two pieces. The participating artists, all of whom live in Colorado and work in abstraction or conceptual abstraction, are Vanessa Clarke, Emmett Culligan, John Ferguson, Erick Johnson, Andy Libertone, Nancy Lovendahl, Robert Mangold, Patrick Marold, David Mazza, Andy Miller, Charles Parson, Carl Reed, Joe Riché, Kevin Robb and Bill Vielehr. Through September 30, 2015, at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Reviewed July 10.