Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 6/60: Denver Museums

Friday, 9/14

We had a terrific day in Denver. The weather was clear and the temperature pleasant, so we enjoyed taking pictures of the sculpture and the museums in the cultural center.

Lao Tzu by Mark di Suvero, 1996
Background: Denver Central Library, architect Michael Graves
Dan's photo
Denver Monoliths by Beverly Pepper, 2002
Background: The Hamilton Building, Denver Art Museum, architect Daniel Libeskind
Dan's photo
Big Sweep by Claus Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, 2006
Dan's photo
Our first stop was the new Clyfford Still Museum, which just opened last year. When we planned our journey, I was not a big fan of this artist, but I felt that as reporters on the museum scene in the US, we were obliged to see what it was like. It is located in an excellent minimalist building by Brad Cloepfil, all concrete and gray tones, the perfect background for Still's bold, abstract paintings. Seeing a big bunch of Still's work all together, I soon became a convert; some of his works are truly beautiful.

The Clyfford Still Museum
Architect: Brad Cloepfil
Dan's photo
Jan's Photo
So that was quite satisfying. Here is a link to my photos of Still's work: Clyfford Still

By then it was time for lunch. We went to the Palettes CafĂ© in the North wing of the Denver Art Museum. The atmosphere there is very pleasant, with picture windows showing pedestrians in the courtyard, and nice art on the walls. We both had the salmon salad, which was delectable. Dan had a nice glass of wine; I had orange popsicle cake and espresso. 

Jan's Photo
The Denver Art Museum occupies two buildings, across the street from each other and connected by a bridge.

The Hamilton Building appears to touch the North Building
The two are actually connected by a glass bridge at the second story
I love the second building, called the Hamilton wing. It's a little hard to accept because it projects outwards at explosive angles, a shocking sight at first. A jagged look is pretty much the signature of the architect, Daniel Liebeskind. This is just the kind of building critics love to hate: they say it is excessive, that it is impractical, that it upstages the art. My experience is that DAM is a remarkably friendly building—sheltering the Cultural Complex in a way that is dramatic without being intrusive. It projects into the skyline at improbable angles, but it doesn't dominate the scene like a big block. Its exterior surface glows softly, rather than glaring harshly, and its constantly changing angles moderate the lights and shadows.

Inside the building, the improbable angles—no right angles whatsoever—make the place seem exciting, make you curious about the art.

Interior Denver Art Museum, 2012
Jan's Photo
I did an extensive write-up on this building after our visit in 2010. You can read it on my website:
Denver Art Museum

Although the Denver Museum has picked up a few European works, the strength of its collection is in its Western stuff—romantic scenery, cowboys, and Indians. Here are some of Dan's favorites.

The Hold-up by Charles M. Russell, 1899
Dan's photo
Wide Lands of the Navajo by Maynard Dixon, 1945
Dan's photo
Noon Break by William Dunton, 1905
Dan's photo
Gateway to Cerrillos by John Sloan, 1946
Dan's photo
The museum also has a pretty fair collection of modern art, mostly American.

The Bright Breakfast of Minnie by Marsden Hartley, c. 1915
Dan's photo
Self-portrait with Swimming Coach Charlie Sava by Joan Brown, 1974
Dan's photo
The Violin by Roy Lictenstein, 1976
Dan's photo
Pretty Ladies by Eric Fischl, 1986
Dan's photo
DAM had a special exhibit on an African artist called El Anatsui who makes works from trash. He is best known for making hangings using the metal seals from whiskey bottles, connecting them with copper wire.

Zebra Crossing III by El Anatsui, 2007
Jan's photo
We've seen a few of these fabric-like hangings, but this show had a comprehensive array of his work including wood carvings and prints. What I liked best was a sculptural installation made from lids of used condensed milk cans, wired together into sheets, and shaped into low peaks on the floor.

Peak Project by El Anatsui, 1999
Jan's photo
There were a few other special exhibits of interest. A Denver artist named Vance Kirkland, whom I had known for Western landscapes, took a big turn late in life and started doing imaginary studies of space; they had a lot of his work.

Clouds and Mountains by Vance Kirkland, 1943
Jan's Photo, 2010
Four Suns in Space by Vance Kirkland, 1971
Jan's Photo, 2012
In one of the restrooms at the museum is a unique sound installation by Jim Green called Singing Sinks, 2002.


video



On the way back to the motel, we got caught up in a colossal traffic jam about a mile after we got on I-25 south. The navigator on the car showed backed-up traffic for miles. Checking the iPad mapper, I could see that there was an easy route on surface streets. After about 20 minutes of creeping along, I convinced Dan that we should get off on University Blvd. and head south, and I navigated the city streets using the iPad mapper. That way we learned something about the neighborhoods, at least.

That evening Dan did a load of wash and had a bite to eat at the hotel. I rested and handled computer tasks.


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