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As lower downtown's sidewalks have become crowded with shoppers, tourists and sports fans, the trend among art galleries has been to move out or close up. That's not just the story in LoDo, but on Broadway and throughout the central business district. The problem? Spiraling rents combined with sluggish art sales. In a local economy that is booming, the art market has been mostly left out--until lately, that is.

Today there are signs that art means business again in Denver. First, those red dots that indicate a piece has sold are showing up more frequently on wall-hung gallery works. In keeping with that increased demand, prices are up--in some cases, way up. And finally, new galleries are starting to appear on the formerly beleaguered scene.

The first of this new crop surfaced at the start of the season last fall: an impressive little place called Round World, located just blocks from Coors Field next to La Coupole restaurant. The gallery still seems like the new kid on the block, but it's since lost that title to Ron Judish Fine Arts, which opened last week on Wazee Street, on the same row that features the William Matthews Gallery and the CSK Gallery. Both Round World and Judish are now hosting group shows that bring together the work of five artists. At Round World, it's Rare Editions, a display of modern master prints by art-world heavyweights. Ron Judish's inaugural exhibition, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, consists of paintings and drawings by four local artists and an out-of-towner.

True to its title, Rare Editions is made up of rare print editions from New York artists, including both historic works and more recent efforts. "They're the kind of thing one doesn't normally get to see," says Round World partner and co-director Peggy Scott, and she's not kidding.

The show begins with a monumental 1997 lithograph by Louise Bourgeois, who is, of course, better known as a sculptor. But though she isn't often associated with printmaking, Bourgeois makes a sophisticated reference to the history of modern printmaking with the multi-panel "Reply to Hayter." The organic, shell-like forms Bourgeois has arranged over a dark gray ground have a retro, 1940s quality--appropriate since the "Hayter" to whom the artist replies is her former teacher, Stanley William Hayter, an English surrealist engraver who came to New York from Paris as a war refugee in 1940. At that time, Hayter opened his renowned Studio 17 as an engraving atelier and helped launch New York School abstract expressionism by impressing young artists in the Big Apple with his automatic approach to composition. Bourgeois's rejoinder is notably more muscular than Hayter's pieces, which often display gauzy overlays, but her shapes recall those preferred by the master.

The next piece up in Rare Editions is without a doubt the most important print in the show: the truly impressive "False Start II," a masterful 1962 lithograph by the legendary Jasper Johns. With its all-over pattern of smudgy marks in black, white and gray interspersed with stenciled letters, the piece marks a historic juncture in the development of modern art in America; it's got one foot in abstract expressionism and the other in pop art.

"False Start II" dates from a time when Johns was making art history side by side with his former companion Robert Rauschenberg, who is also included in Rare Editions. Rauschenberg is represented by another historically important print, the 1964 lithograph "Ark." Like Johns, Rauschenberg elegantly blended the opposing sources of abstract expressionism and pop art; in "Ark," smeared passages obscure layered photo images, including one of John F. Kennedy at a speaker's podium.

Around the corner from the Rauschenberg is a unique silkscreen print from mega-pop-art star Andy Warhol, 1985's "Anniversary Donald Duck." The brightly colored print reveals the troublesome duck playing soldier in spite of his signature sailor suit; a broom over his shoulder stands in for a rifle. The original Disney animation cell on which the print is based has Donald performing before a group of mirrors that multiply his reflection. This multiplicity relates to Warhol's interest in repeated images and is probably why he chose to base his print on this particular image--that and the fat Disney commission.

The show concludes with an entire portfolio of lithographs from 1972 by minimalist Brice Marden. In these elegant prints, Marden takes the rectangular format of the lithographic press and creates geometric variations with heavy scribbled lines held in check by hard-edged vertical or horizontal areas.

Across downtown from Round World is Ron Judish Fine Arts, a sparkling gallery marked by a large "5" painted on the front display window---where it will remain only until I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold finishes its run. This new space is a glamorous kind of place where the visitor might expect to see rich movers and shakers like--oh, let's say, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The terminator, who was in town to retool his Stadium Walk project at 18th and Wazee streets, came browsing with his entourage one day last week. For gallery director Judish, it's been that kind of month. "I'm numb," says Judish. "It's better than almost anything I've ever done."