The title of Repeat Offenders indicated that each artist in this group show did work in a series. That was a fairly open-ended qualifier, since nearly all artists create their pieces that way. But the handle gave Singer Gallery director Simon Zalkind an excuse to feature artists whom he felt were among the best around -- more than two dozen contemporary artists working in metro Denver. Most were well-established locals, including Stephen Batura, Roland Bernier and Sushe Felix, but the work of a few accomplished emerging talents -- including Brandon Borchert, Katie Taft and Jason Patz -- stood up to the best their elders had to offer.

San Francisco artist Rex Ray is perhaps best known for his graphic designs for Apple Computer, Bill Graham Productions and David Bowie. But he's a fine artist first, as demonstrated by the knockout show Rex Ray: Recent Work at Rule Gallery. Ray, whose real name is Michael Patterson, lived for a time in Colorado, and he has occasionally exhibited here since settling in the Bay Area back in the '80s. For this show, he created an installation of nearly 500 drawings on one wall and surrounded it by scores of mixed-media collages on wood. There was a retro-'50s feel to these pieces, but they also looked newer than new.

It was a brilliant stroke last spring when the Robischon Gallery, the city's flagship, presented two sculpture shows, John Buck and Manuel Neri, and installed them back to back. The show illustrated how the two artists compare and contrast with each other. Both are masters of contemporary sculpture who work in the West -- Buck lives in Montana, Neri in California -- and both do pieces that incorporate the human figure. But each is unique: Buck likes a lot of extraneous details, whereas Neri is into simplification. The thoughtful placement of the works at Robischon enhanced the whole experience.

In a recent episode, Extreme Makeover -- Home Edition came to Arvada to build a duplex for two low-income families and, next door, a community park. Young hotshot David Mazza was tapped to create a sculpted entry for the public space. Inside a week, Mazza turned around "Renaissance Park Archway," a work in welded steel. The form of the piece is a pair of abstract linear sculptures that mirror one another exactly; each composition pivots visually off a central mast that comes out of the ground, the sculptor's signature approach. Looks like Mazza's ready for prime time.

Put together during the few short months when Ivar Zeile was teamed up with Ron Judish, Bruce Price: Fill was a major success -- unlike the partnership. Price is a local pioneer of post-minimalism, known for pattern paintings based on his theories of decoration. For Fill, which debuted in New York before moving to Denver, he put on one layer of paint after another with transparent layers in between, creating a weave of patterns. The paintings didn't just give the illusion of being three-dimensional; they actually were.

Nationally known Colorado artist John Hull likes to mix Hollywood-style shoot-'em-up imagery with traditional painting techniques; taken together, his cyclical narrative pieces could be called visual novels. In Pictures From Sonny's Place, Hull told the story of an imaginary rural junkyard -- based on an actual place in Wyoming -- where meth is used and dealt. The story is filled out with tough guys and their wild girlfriends, a bunch of hot cars (some of them wrecked) and even a gun or two. It's an ordinary story in the impoverished countryside nowadays, but in Hull's able hands, the tale was epic.

The Lakewood Cultural Center has made ceramics a specialty, with regular group shows devoted to the medium. The center hosted a rare solo show last fall, when Michael Coffee's smart-looking Place of Mind was installed in the north gallery. Coffee, a retired architect who turned to ceramics ten years ago, has mastered the art of clay, as evidenced by his totem sculptures made of glazed clay cylinders stacked on top of one another. Best of all, the exhibit came and went without anyone from the City of Lakewood seeking to censor it, as happened out there more recently with another ceramics show.

One of the state's biggest and most important annuals, Colorado Clay, has been held at Foothills Art Center in Golden since the '70s. This year's guest juror, Peter Held, from the Arizona State University Art Museum, took a new approach: Instead of choosing objects, Held chose artists -- and fewer of them than usual. Each of the sixteen ceramicists was shown in depth, with the works taking over Foothills' entire main area. Among the standouts in a field crowded with first-rate artists were Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, Katie Martineau-Caron, Dan Fogelberg, Janey Skeer, Carol Juddiece Cooper and Carla Kappa.

The Powerball lottery seems an unlikely source for paintings and prints. But in Random Art Two, his smashing solo at Capsule@Pod, Brandon Borchert assigned a specific image to each of the Powerball numbers, one through 53. The images illustrated one of four subjects: sex, death, food and art history, and included everything from canned meat to hand grenades. The show comprised prints of the individual images, along with a series of accompanying paintings in which Borchert assembled the pictures in groups based on the winning Powerball sequences. Referencing dada, surrealism and Spam, Random Art Two was definitely a winner.

Andy Miller: A Deconstruction of Life knocked everyone out when it was shown at Pirate last spring. The show featured four monumental steel and neon sculptures that depicted simplified images of men committing suicide. One was hanging by a noose from the ceiling, another aimed a gun at his head, a third was taking a vial of poison, and the last was jumping to his death. The subject matter was disturbing, but suicide is only one of the topics Miller hopes to take up in the future; these pieces are the first in a series of sculptures addressing crime and violence.

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