Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dear Vicki and Ken, Can we be friends.

Recently on display at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) was RADAR, contemporary work from the collection of Vicki and Kent Logan. First of all, who are these people? And how do I get invited to a dinner party at their house? The staff at DAM are obviously buddying up to Vicki and Ken and for good reason. This stuff has gotta go somewhere when they die and it might as well be DAM. (Several works were already listed as fractional gifts and promised to museums including DAM and SFMOMA.)

Because DAM won’t let you take pictures of works on loan I’ve had to pilfer images from other sources. So they may not reflect an accurate installation view. The catalog from the show is worth the $40 and since the exhibit closed on July 15, it’s a great way to experience the art.

There was some great stuff in this show starting with the work that greets you just outside the gallery. Let’s call it a cover of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculptures. Created by Jason Middlebrook and titled The Beginning of the End, the work takes everything that makes Indiana's original great and turns it on its head, reminding us that even love is temporal.

Entering the gallery you run head on into Michael Joo’s Headless, a mash-up of Buddhist and American traditions. A small army of headless Buddhas sit below the suspended heads of western pop icons, from Wolverine to one of the Seven Dwarfs. I still don't know what it means but I sure did like it.

And the exhibit just gets better from there. A mini Damien Hirst retrospective features three works including Philip (The Twelve Disciples), a 1994 work that features a bull’s head in a metal and glass tank filled with formaldehyde. No matter how you feel about Hirst’s work, I dare you to stand in front of this piece and not react emotionally.

Three works by Khatarina Fritsch (Dealer, Monk, Doctor) were displayed together to dazzling and ominous effect. Ron Mueck’s Untitled (Man under Cardigan) featured the artist’s trademark realism in a smallish sculpture that made you want to reach out and comfort the poor little guy. Two large sculptures by Thomas Schütte cast in “seawater resistant aluminum” (whatever that is) were shiny and showy and slippery.

But wait, there’s more. This post could go on for days talking about all the interesting art in just this one gallery, from the works of Felix Gonzales-Torres to brilliant works by contemporary Asian artists like the Luo Brothers, Yue Minjun, and Zhang Huan.

Kiki Smith’s life-sized bronze, Virgin Mary was hauntingly beautiful and the first large scale work by the artist I’ve seen in person. The more of Smith’s work I see, the more I like the humanity that comes through so forcefully in her art. (And DAM has another of her large bronze works in the permanent collection.)

There’s no time to talk about every work in the exhibit but I’ll close with the art of Takashi Murakami. I’ve always liked stuff by the man behind “superflat.” And this exhibit offers four large-scale works that are just dazzling. May Satzuki, a huge pink painting with white milky splashes across it, was set as the backdrop for Hiropon, a larger-than-life anime inspired sculpture that features lactating breasts. The two works were fantastic together. Super Nova took the concept of the mushroom cloud to new heights of cuteness and terror. The mini Murakami festival rounded out with DOB in a Strange Forest, a substantial sculpture that makes one wonder, “where do Vicki and Ken put this thing when it’s not in a museum?”

There was plenty more to see at this show but I’ve gone on long enough. If you’re ever in the neighborhood let me know and I’ll let you browse through the exhibit catalog. And seriously; Ken, Vicki, call me. We’ll do lunch.

Next post, musings on DAM’s permanent collection.

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