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The message displayed on a splotchy bearded provocateurs sweatshirt set the tone for the day.

“Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”

Disturbed or otherwise, I assume ripping ratchetdabs in a filthy, sticker-covered 4runner prior to a day at the museum is how every art critic begins their process.

Culture does not discriminate; all walks of life are welcome and take full advantage of the Denver Art Museum’s Free First Saturday promotion subsidized by Target. A smattering of the city’s homeless population enjoying the museum grounds on this day gives way to elitists willing to relieve themselves of an optional $27 for a chance to see shiny jewelry in the Cartier diamond exhibit.

Following a herd of stroller pushing mommies into an elevator is not a most excellent decision. Unable to work in any capacity as elevator operator due, in majority, to DJ Shadow’s juicy beats and my polarized vision, the young art enthusiasts were audibly upset that their buttons weren’t being pushed. Passive aggressive breaths filled the box to suffocation.

The operator blurted as the doors labored to open,

“Next stop American Indian and Northwest Coast Art!”

Far out pottery abounds and mesmerizing Navajo rugs woven in geometric designs seem likely the precursor to Magic Eye posters. Expressive footwear, beautiful fringed buckskin and a condor cape all works of art on display could just as soon be seen on Shakedown Street this summer as fashion statements or currency for designer drugs.

Sidestepping and spinning my way through the bridge connection to the Hamilton Building leaves a bevy of unaccompanied beauties staring, wondering when I’ll be pirouetting back into their lives again. Regrettably the answer is never; today is about the art.

It’s easy to get turned around and end up looking at the same piece 3 times. Sadly, self-guided tours are only as good as their guide and mine leaves much to be desired. Find some landmarks to ease your mind. A large red horse works well while experiencing Western American Art.

The welcoming Tyrannosaurus Rex at the entrance to the Modern and Contemporary Art Hall speculates that artists represented herein may create under the influence of massive quantities of ganja. An artwork titled Bullfight by Elaine De Kooning solidifies the assertion. It can best be described as thick, colorful brushstrokes on canvas.

An exhibit of Carrol Dunham’s drawings is baffling. Legitimately, placemat and Crayola is what comes to mind. I’ll say this for the man, his artwork is sexually charged. Many phallic detours and vaginal pit stops mark the road along the way to his daughter’s hit show, Girls.

Sandy Skoglund’s installation Fox Games is as playful as it sounds. Everything is painted red and there are foxes jumping around everywhere! It’s assertive. It’s confrontational. Dare I say it’s comforting?

At this zoo, the animals can’t be controlled. Senior citizens and young children outside the peripheral of their guardians run rampant, breaking clearly marked rules such as “DO NOT TOUCH”. Giving zero F’s, these bastions of the anti-establishment get down to their own music. Their defiance is inspirational.

This part of the museum is a work of art itself. It’s sharp angles and maze like construction evoke memories of the treacherous Aggro Crag and it’s venomous vapors. At these heights time is lost and exhaustion can set in unexpectedly. Plan for a quick exit if you would like to avoid the avalanche of judgment that comes at the museum’s close.

The final installation was not quite ready as I was headed for the exit but I peered in. There were about twenty-five empty 32-gallon garbage buckets spread across the huge exhibit hall. Hundreds of feet of retractable barrier belts were hooked together like you might see in airport security lines. I think it may be an allegory for eco-terrorism but it could just be the work of a lazy janitor.

Featured image painting credit: Michael Canada (michaelcanadaart.com)

From the artist: The Image is a called, “Weezyhontas; Blue Dream. It’s of a young Native American woman relaxing in the moonlight after a long day of harvesting. The work is acrylic on canvas and is 13.5” x 11.75. This work is currently on display at CannaMart on 3700 W. Quincy Ave. Michael’s work is marijuana work is a Reeferlution of the cannabis image and it’s users.

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