Thursday, June 11, 2009

Denver Art Museum - Review

I've avoided blogging lately because I knew wanted to do this post on the Denver Art Museum, and I told myself I'd wait until I had time to do it justice - there was so much to see and talk about! I'll do my best now.

I visited my mother in Denver earlier this month, and naturally took the time to visit their art museum. The city of Denver is clean, well built, on an easy grid - it's different from the cities on the west coast I'm familiar with. Everything is so big and spread out here. They have more money for public focused projects, too. The museum is designed by an architect - modern and crazy looking. I'm not personally a fan; it looks great from the outside, but it's a very weird experience inside (some paintings were even hung on angled walls).

As far as DAM goes, it's more accessible to the public and consequently filled with people, and lots of children. Portland and San Francisco art museums are virtually child free, and in fact very quiet in general. In Denver, on a Tuesday, the museum was full - all ages. Each gallery had a small study and interactive library full of books relating to the exhibitions. They also employed grouped art in unusual ways. Instead of grouping everything by time and place, there were several sections with titles like: Portraits, Still Life, Landscape, and in them there were paintings from many times and places. In every section of the museum there were little games for kids (and adults) to play relating to the exhibition. For instance beside the special exhibition of Psychedelic Rock Posters from San Francisco, there was a room furnished like the time period and people could write their 60's concert experiences in a book, make kaleidoscope like light shows etc. In the Native American Galleries you could design beaded vests made from various magnets, in the African Gallery kids could play computerized drums (at low volume).

Robert Henri - Tom Po Qui

The highlight of Denver, being the capital of the West, was of course the Western Art. Particularly memorable was a Fechin portait of a Mexican Cowboy, a John Sloan, and once again, Denver is doing something I've never seen - including contemporary representational works in a museum. I haven't honestly seen many museums, but in every one I've been in, the contemporary work is limited to the post post modern heavily conceptual type. Clyde Aspevig's landscape was notable, and there were many others. Robert Henri's Tom Po Qui was a great painting, and especially inspiring to me was his quote: "I was not interested in those people to sentimentalize over them, to mourn over the fact that we have destroyed the Indian. I do not wish to explain these people, I do not wish to preach through them, I only want to find whatever of the great spirit there is in the Southwest." I love that - humanity not politics. I so agree.

They have work by Eakins as well. - I adore Eakins and loved seeing his work in person. (Singing Cowboy)

Chanet Lane - by Andrew Dansburg (My and my mother's particular favorite piece in the Western group)

I did notice, however, that every painting, every artifact, every sculpture seems to have been chosen for it's sex appeal - figuratively speaking - they're all very splashy, easy to access. Other museums certainly are more scholarly in their acquisitions process. At a certain point, perhaps it is a weakness, but THANK YOU DENVER for engaging the general public in the visual arts!!!!! People in general lack art exposure and education and museums like this go a long way to make a place for people like me who work as artists full time.

There was a lot more to see and talk about, but sadly - (this is a major beef I have with museums) - I cannot find images online of my favorite pieces and the gift shop had mostly postcards of work that is in other museums. When I go to a museum, I want to be able to be able to blog about it! They make it so hard. I did buy the little Highlights From the Collection - Denver Art Museum booklet - but their highlights weren't necessarily my highlights.

Post Script - Interesting - On the flight home I was reading ART news magazine and inside was an article on art museums attempts to bring people in.

1 comment:

Don and Nancy said...

What a great review! Thanks for taking us to the Denver Art Museum! Funny- DAM are the letters in Don's initials too, and are on a lot of his pottery. Loved the Eakins, too. Nance