9. März 2009
Denver Art Museum
Ken Hamel
A surprisingly un-controversial Gottfried Helnwein work is also new to the collection
Shuffling the Deck at the DAM
DENVER, CO.- The Denver Art Museum (DAM) today announced a major reinstallation of its Modern & Contemporary Art galleries with an eye toward the human form. Focus: The Figure includes works from the DAM’s collection that have never been seen before, as well as known visitor favorites. The installation presents a dialogue on art and politics with many works offering insight into universal social issues. The rotation, which officially opens on August 23, was curated by Christoph Heinrich, DAM’s Polly and Mark Addison curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, who joined the Museum in 2007.
“Looking at the collection with a focus on the human figure was a unique way to showcase the dynamic collection,” Heinrich said. “The new installation of about 100 works highlights the depth of the DAM’s Modern and Contemporary holdings; and the collection revealed itself with richness and texture with pieces that referenced the human body in some way.”
Head of a Child 5
mixed media (oil and acrylic on canvas), 1998, 109 cm x 160 cm / 42'' x 62''
Last week the Denver Art Museum floated a press release highlighting some of the big changes on the 3rd and 4th floors of the Hamilton building, and I stopped by to take in the changes and get some pictures.
The 4th floor is totally revamped, in fact there are only 2 pieces unchanged (Richard Serra's 1987 "Basic Maintenance" and Anthony Gormley's 2000 "Quantum XXXIII") no doubt due to the very permanent nature of those massive yet fragile works that obviously would not take well to any type of transit. The new theme of the floor is "Focus: the Figure" with the updated works on display primarily highlighting human forms through sculpture. There are some crowd pleasers back on display for sure, including John DeAndrea's lifelike "Linda" as well as Kim Dingle's "Priss," Pia Stadtbaumer's "Max, Raven and Scissors," and Beverly Semmes hanging "Four Purple Velvet Bathrobes," the latter 3 all last seen back in 2003 as part of the "Retrospectacle" exhibit just before the museum all but went into hibernation prior to construction of the Hamilton building. Semmes work is particularly welcome as it is one of the few examples of art that actually is enhanced by the baroque angled walls of the 4th floor.
Also of note are works by Manuel Neri, Tony Ortega and a simply magnificent pencil self-portrait by Denver artist Bill Amundson ("Nervous Patriot") epic in scale and a worthy addition to the DAM permanent collection. Of course the DAM giveth to Denver's artists and taketh away: Phil Bender's hubcaps are alas no longer on display.
A very welcome addition is the new "Fuse Box," a forum provided by the DAM Contemporaries which is currently exhibiting video works by Bjorn Melhus whose excellent "Captain" is a must see, as strong and hypnotic as the video work by Omer Fast at the MCA Denver (in fact these pieces would make an excellent double bill.) Melhus fuses old Star Trek sound effects with three brooding, stoic actors on a moonscape more like a Shakespearean stage than a science fiction set. The actors are surrounded by images of inter-galaxial travel and high-definition planets, and speak not in their own voices, but lip-sync looped Star Trek dialog with almost no visible emotion. The power arrives as the unmistakable voice of William Shatner oozes passionately from these empty actor-vessels, looped and disjointed, but easily avoiding any camp via the actors' dispassionate, spooky presence and the haunting, timeless Trekian musical themes floating through the films soundtrack. The video immediately brought to mind the classic 1930s era art film "Rose Hobart" by collagist Joseph Cornell, and where Cornell took silent era star Rose Hobart and edited her "East of Borneo" performance into a new context, Melhus takes even less than Cornell from his core material and creates an end product that thoroughly transforms its root into something fresh and exciting.
Shifting down to the 3rd floor, I was very disappointed to find that 2 large Vance Kirkland works have been mothballed in exchange for a gaudy Gilbert and George larger than life composite poster, and the wall of Robert Motherwell pieces are on ice as well, replaced by several figurative oils including an interesting 2005 portrait by Kehinde Wiley "Passing/Posing (Marriage of the Virgin.)" A surprisingly un-controversial Gottfried Helnwein work is also new to the collection (1998 "Head of a Child V") along with Leipzig artist David Schnell's 2005 "Aussicht" (which has actually been on display for a few months, but it's such a really great piece I want to make special note. And as long as I'm calling out exceptional works, don't miss Karel Appel's 1953 "Camille" which is newly on display in the 3rd floor's Modern wing.)
The fingerprints of super collectors and DAM supporters Vicki and Kent Logan are so prominent one might almost call this current reworking "Radar II" (after the Radar contemporary show which inaugurated the new building) but the press release assures us that new contemporary curator Christoph Heinrich is the mastermind behind the latest rotation. It's unfortunate Phil Anschutz doesn't have a taste for contemporary, preferring to while away his Billions on works such as Thomas Eakin's "Singing Cowboy" which after a few weeks on the 2nd floor is now on the road.
The Denver Art Museum
2006
Vicki and Kent Logan in front of Helnwein's "Head of a Child 5"
2006




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