14 March 2015

road trip 2015: Denver and beyond

The VRA conference is now over and I've hit the road again, down the Front Range from Denver. There is no blue highway so it's been Interstate 25. Not nearly as much fun driving, and it was pretty busy from Denver until I got past Pueblo, Colorado.

I did not get to the Denver Art Museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver but did visit the Clyfford Still Museum and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. They are about as different as two museums could be.

The Clyfford Still has only been open since 2011 and is devoted to the work of one artist. It is a beautifully neo-brutalist building, designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture.

I rather thought that I was familiar with the work of Clyfford Still since I had seen many of his paintings but the works here, and the installation, are really sensational, especially the early ones that are not common in other collections. One of my favorite museums is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. They have the second-largest collection of Still works but they usually have only mature works on display.

The Kirkland, on the other hand, is the accumulated stuff of Colorado painter Vance Kirkland (1904-1981). His studio building is the heart of the building and it has been expanded in a congenial manner. There are a lot of his works as well as tons of decorative arts and works by other Colorado artists, including a painting by Daniel Rhodes who taught ceramics at Alfred for many years. (Aside: Lorna Rhodes, his daughter, was my date for the senior prom in 1964.) The display style is "salon style" according to the website but one could also say cluttered. But there are lots of treasures: furniture by Wiener Werkstätte and modern architects (Josef Hoffmann, Paul Frankl, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright), pottery and tableware (Charles Fergus Binns of Alfred fame, Rookwood, Teco, Fiesta ware, Russel Wright).

While I was at the conference, I learned that Michael Graves died. This made me very sad. I have seen quite a few of his buildings including his home in Princeton, New Jersey. He designed the new central building for the Denver Public Library in 1995. I had looked at the building on my way to the Clyfford Still Museum so it was particularly poignant to learn that he had died.

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