Denver Art Museum – March – October 22, 2017 – I walk straight through this exhibition like I was walking across the long bridge into that border town, a little afraid for my kids watching them like a mother hawk, knowing that they would be so easily attracted to all the colorful things in stalls and open-doored shops, and having been warned that border towns are edgy because they happen to lie on an edge of something we constructed and want to contain.
On that walk, the river was beautiful and I could have stayed a long time but the bridge was too crowded – just like the free first-Saturday (April 1) at the Denver Art Museum when I saw the show for a second time. So crowded, I missed my favorite piece. My favorite piece had stayed in my mind since the first visit, and is a room-high, long, slowly moving video of the border. And we walk the length it, pressed in on one side by the video and on the other by a mirror that is reflecting the video landscape. The mirror is also semi-transparent and I can see a second video of another landscape beyond it. A quick stay between these videos and you don’t realize the landscape is changing, Only when you walk very slowly, contemplating, does the ‘movie’ overtake your steps. The artist, Jaime Carrejo, creator of this piece called One-Way Mirror – lives in mytown, in Denver.
Ahead of you, when you leave One-Way Mirror, is that Juarez store filled with souvenirs. Everyone was drawn there on my first visit by the colors and textures of pieces that seem like pinatas, and the same happened on free day. I hate to be the one drawn in by what attracts everyone else.
And I walk to the farthest edge of the show where, when I had first arrived, I had felt like I was at the edge of a cliff – in reality it is the other stairway up to this gallery – and I would fall if I tried to get far enough away from the wall covered with paintings to see the work.
To see them straight on, you are no more that 5 feet away and your back is rubbing the partial wall that’s keeping you from falling to the floor below. By the time you’ve seen half of these painting that feel like giant baseball cards – feet not inches across – your back meets the placard with titles that’s on top of the waist-high wall. And here you can turn away from the works and read. You can learn that four of these paintings on a wall full of paintings are castas. These are 18th century info graphics about New World families, I was told by the artist who selected them from the Denver Art Museum’s collection of the Spanish Colonial period. They are distributed carefully on the wall densely hung as if it were in a Victorian mansion in England, or Gertrude Stein’s apartment.
The newer paintings by Claudio Dicochea, are similarly letting we, the viewers, know something about the characters in the painting. While I can know only what I see in the paintings about the people who lived in 1700s Mexico, I have popular cultural reference to Arnold Schwartzenager. I know that he was the governor of California, and wonder if that will be noted about him when everyone who ever saw him live on TV is dead. The contrast between the 18th century painting and the 21st’s shows the influence of cartoons and Adobe Creative Suite on our painted marks but the similarity of our need to identify faces. There is a lot to see on this wall – the piece as a whole called Songs of the Event Horizon – and by forcing me up in front of it turns the experience into a one painting at a time kind of thing instead of feeling like it is a stall full of pinatas. In the background, hardly noticeable at this focal length is the event horizon: gray painted rectangles that are a visual representation of the code that is sent into space as a ‘hey, we’re here’ by NASA.
On second visit – free day – I entered the show by passing through constantly swinging doors – one that is push and one that is pull from both direction. A little Duchampian confusion, and then everyone just steps on while those on your left are heading away. Different work is laid out left and right, half hidden by temporary full-length wall oddly plumb in this not-so-plumb museum.
I could sit in this bizarre and write poetry on each piece. I should give this contemplation – I’d like to – to each one. Take the work by Carmen Argote, Live/Work – a woman who feels like my friend.
She lives and works with another person in a studio with a wall down the center – she actually built this wall for that purpose: to separate her private and artwork life. The metal wall is covered with remnants of daily life. It’s annoying because it’s too realistic, yet fascinating in all its detail.
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 36, 2016. Gütermann thread, painted wood, and hooks – Dawes work is best told in pictures. I spoke to the artist and that wasn’t as illuminating – the work is.
I could write more, but why don’t you tell me what you think? Add a comment. And return. Short video ‘walk throughs’ coming soon.