Denver Art Museum

El Anatsui: inspiration and exhibition in Denver

El-anatsui-detailI've been inspired by El Anatsui since I first glimpsed his huge recycled tapestry-like work at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2008... I even wrote a blog post about it way back then!

So I've been looking forward to his retrospective show at the Denver Art Museum, "When I Last Wrote to You about Africa."

He gave a talk, more like an interview, in advance of the opening last week, as part of the Logan Lecture series. I was particularly interested in his discussion of using humble elements, brought together in a monumental way, to create a meaningful work of art. Beauty, he feels, is just a by-product of his work. (Detail of one of the works on view in Denver at left)

He said working with what your environment produces has always been a guiding thought in his artistic practice. As a collagist, I could totally relate to his sensibilities. 

In working with found objects, he acknowledges that the media comes with its own history/meaning. He believes that because the objects have been touched by a person, there is a "psychic charge" within the artwork that ultimately helps other people relate to the piece.

He also spoke about the flexibility of the hanging pieces and the importance of involving other people in his work to determine how they should be hung/placed -- so it is different in every installation. He said art is like a reflection of life, always in a state of flux, and he embraces that philosophy throughout his practice.

El-anatsui-janice-mcdonaldWhen I arrived at the exhibition on Saturday, I was surprised that he was in the galleries responding to questions about the work. It was great to meet him and be able to tell him how much I've enjoyed his work. What a creative spirit and what a wonderful exhibition.

It runs through December 30th, 2012. Be sure to visit if you are in the area. I know I'll be going back a few times in an attempt to take it all in! (Even the shadows the works cast on the walls are gorgeous.) 

Here's some video that gives you the sense of being in the same space with these wall hangings. It is not from the Denver show but was the best footage I could find to show the details of his work, from a recent show at the Akron Art Museum. Enjoy! 


Denver's Biennial of the Americas

Mcnichols1Mcnichols3 I've thoroughly enjoyed dipping in and out of events related to Denver's Biennial of the Americas over the last month. I didn't make it to the more heavily promoted Roundtable speaker series, but have focused my attentions on the art happenings around town.

"The Nature of Things" exhibition at the renovated McNichols Building is quite wonderful. Westword's Michael Paglia has written a comprehensive review of the artwork there and elsewhere. I've been to several really good talks as part of the speaker series there too.

 I love the whimsical transformation of the outdoor space by Jeronimo Hagerman (see above). Adding the vegetation to the capitals on the building is intriguing from the exterior but also refreshing and engaging when glimpsed from the windows on the third floor of the exhibition. I just wish the McNichols exhibition and talks had been free throughout the Biennial, rather than just during the last week -- I think they would have been so much better attended and as a result provoked much more consideration and discussion.

Civic Center Park looks fabulous. The gardens are amazing this year with creative plant combinations that compel me to pull out my camera again and again.

1.26-11.26-2My favorite Biennial work is the temporary public piece, "1.26," suspended over the street between the Denver Art Museum and Civic Center Park. Janet Echelman has created a netted aerial work that is vaguely interesting by day but phenomenal when viewed at night. My photos don't do it justice so if you are in the area, try to get down to see it some evening soon. (Or see better photos on the artist's website via link above.) The work was inspired by a simulation of the February 2010 Chilean earthquake and speaks to the "temporality and interconnectedness surrounding the 1.26 microsecond shortening of the day that resulted from the redistribution of the earth's mass." Most of the people looking at it last night seemed to think it looked like a jellyfish or a butterfly, but from certain vantage points it has both ethereal and explosive qualities. Truly wonderful.