We just got back from the downtown Denver complex which contains the History Colorado Center, The Denver Art Museum, and the Clyfford Still Museum.
The History Colorado Center is devoted to demonstrating early life in Colorado and does not shy away from explaining how U.S. Troops massacred Indians or imprisoned Japanese Americans during WW II. It is an interactive museum–you can milk a cow (fill a bucket with light), ride a model T down a dirt road, ski down a ski jump, and wander through a general store. We were there early. As soon as the kids came, we left–it’s a great space for both adults and kids–more leisurely without the kids, however.
We passed the Denver Art Museum on our way to the Clyfford Still Museum. We’ll have to see inside it another day. Brains can only hold so much information. But the art outside is intriguing and didn’t require active gray cells. The giant broom and dust pan is called, Big Sweep. It’s by Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg, made in 2006. It’s stainless steel, aluminum, and fiber-reinforced plastic. It’s also a kick. A great surprise. The large rock-like sculpture in front of the museum is more what you would expect to see.
I really wanted to see the Clyfford Still Museum. It is very new; it opened in November, 2011. Some of the street level inside walls are textured cement, gray, and the art is on gray walls upstairs in this impressive building.
Clyfford Still lived from 1904 to 1980. He left his art to a city which would house it and care for it. Denver was chosen by his widow. None of the art is to be sold, and he stipulated that no restaurant should be part of his museum. Even if you are hungry, you have to admire that. Only four of his works were sold prior to the opening of the museum in order to fund the museum. The four pieces brought a total of 114 million at auction. You have to come to Denver to see the pictures. It’s worth the trip.
His art is displayed chronologically on gray walls. His work prior to 1944 depicts human figures and machines. The pictures on display when we were there reminded me of Diego Rivera and some of the murals of depression era workers. Still’s figures are juxtaposed against machinery, and the workers hands are distorted and very large. Not a “feel good” view of daily toil.
In 1944 he began to work in what became know as “Abstract Expressionism” when he created a huge canvas, approximately 8 feet by 7 feet, thick black paint layered on with a palette knife, interrupted by a jagged yellow “bolt” and intersected by red. It reminded me of some modern German glass artists who use color rather than recognizable forms to create light and life. Still said he wanted to fuse texture and color “into a living spirit.” Done! Some of his smaller lithographs and water colors also demonstrate his exploration of texture and color. His pictures do not have titles, just numbers. So we don’t have preconceived notions of what the paintings are “supposed” to be.
There is a conservation room and large canvases hang from ceiling height. The museum is responsible for 2400 paintings.
Overwhelming. Worth a visit. Or more than one visit.