Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

This stuff will rule harder than Qaddafi, or your money back. (That is half true.)

'Mitzi Pederson: the still night air'

Mitzi Pederson is usually based in Berlin and usually involved in fancy undertakings such as the Whitney Biennial. But for two months this winter, she was holed up in Bellevue creating an exhibition for the double-height gallery of Open Satellite. The results are stunningly gorgeous, smart, sparkling—pretty much what you'd expect from the reputation that precedes her. Don't miss this star's temporary landing in our area. Curated by Stranger Genius short-lister Michael Van Horn. (More on page 34.) Through March 19, Open Satellite. JEN GRAVES

'Claire Cowie: Dead Reckoning'

Claire Cowie is a great painter. But she also knows how to build up a show so it's an entire installation. This show, Dead Reckoning, includes a grid of paintings on paper on the wall, depicting a series of rooms vividly patterned and colored, and two sculptures—one on a makeshift quilt on the floor, and the other in a vitrine on a shelf. Cowie's world is just like the one we live in, with trees and animals and couches and wallpaper and flags, but not at all. Living rooms overlap with ships and heads pile up on melting shores. (More on page 34.) Through April 2, James Harris Gallery. JG

Ken Lum

Vancouver, BC, has produced a handful of great contemporary artists, and one of them is Ken Lum, who's shown internationally since the late 1970s. His work is smart and clean: classic Vancouver conceptual. (I once heard it put this way: Seattle has eroticism; Vancouver has conceptualism.) This retrospective is the most extensive survey of his work to date, meaning that if you want to get your head around the head of Ken Lum, this is your chance. It includes some pieces never before seen in North America: Mirror Maze with 12 Signs of Depression (made for Documenta in Kassel, Germany, in 2002), House of Realization (made for the Istanbul Biennial in 2007), and the new Rorschach Shopkeeper Signs. Through Sept 25, Vancouver Art Gallery. JG

'Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth'

Minds have been lost all over the country for the "soundsuits" of Chicago-based artist Nick Cave. He's a former Alvin Ailey dancer whose wearable sculptures make visual noise and noise noise. For materials, he uses whatever he scavenges: patterned fabrics, sparkling beads and sequins, discarded bottle caps, rusted metal, twigs, leaves, hair. They can stand still in a gallery, but they can also be worn and jumped around in across the city, in cafes and at colleges and on street corners. By the time the exhibition closes in June, you'll be seeing Nick Cave's dancing high-priest monsters when you close your eyes to go to sleep at night. March 10–June 5, Seattle Art Museum. JG

'Ellen Lesperance: The Strong, Star-Bright Companions'

Ellen Lesperance makes delicate drawings that look like abstractions—and that would be enough to hold your attention. But each one is also based on the fabric pattern of a sweater worn by a feminist radical during an act of protest, taken from historical photographs. All this is why Portland-based Lesperance (a Seattle native but Portlandia convert) won SAM's Betty Bowen Award this year; unfortunately, that means a measly, tiny display of her work appears next to the elevators at the museum. For a real showcase, you need to go to Ambach & Rice. Coincidentally, this show is also your last chance to visit the Ballard contemporary-art redoubt before it relocates to Wilshire Boulevard near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. April 2–May 15, Ambach & Rice. JG

'The Talent Show'

A good traveling group show is hard to find. This one is organized by MoMA PS1, with sculpture, photography, installation, and video by 18 important contemporary artists under the rubric of The Talent Show—the desire to be exposed, maybe worshiped, maybe rejected and traumatized, maybe co-opted and recirculated. American Idol, Facebook, surveillance: It's all backgrounded here. Artists include Chris Burden, Sophie Calle, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Adrian Piper, Andy Warhol, Tehching Hsieh, Gillian Wearing, Hannah Wilke—it can't miss. May 7–Aug 21, Henry Art Gallery. JG

Scott Fife

Every person and animal Scott Fife makes out of cardboard, glue, nails, and pencil marks is a thing you can't stop looking at. Geronimo. Billy the Kid. Kurt Cobain. Bruce Lee. Fidel Castro as a young man. Abraham Lincoln. Popeye. Clarence Darrow. Steve McQueen. Lionel Hampton. Ethel Barrymore. A T. rex. Some of the decapitated heads rest on their sides on the floor; others have clamps and vises sticking out of their necks like bones and veins. Sexy color has started showing up—irresistible. May 19–July 2, Platform Gallery. JG

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Three separate interior environments will take over Western Bridge for early summer: Carsten Höller's 2001 Neon Circle (an enterable chamber of bright light that might be thought of as a prison—or a liberation zone), Mungo Thomson's 2007 Skyspace Bouncehouse (a bouncy house in the transcendentalist spirit of James Turrell's skyspaces), and Julian Hoeber's new Demon Hill (a room set at an odd angle, so it messes with your sense of balance). What's the goal of an art environment, anyway? May 26–July 30, Western Bridge. JG recommended