Vancouver 2013


We just got back from Vancouver; it really was a perfect week.  My partner was running the Marathon and I was up there to offer support and to enjoy spending time in one of our favorite cities. It was our fourth visit up there and we find ourselves loving it more each time.  This time we made our first visit to Victoria, which was a treat.  In Vancouver, we spent almost all of our time downtown managing to check out Mount Pleasant, Granville Island, Kits Beach, English Bay, Davie Street, Stanley Park, Yaletown, Gas Town and a little bit of China Town. Outside the city it makes sense to have a car, but downtown it is easy to use public transit and mostly to walk to just about anywhere.  Although the city is very cosmopolitan, it is compact: a population similar to Denver is crammed into less than a third of the space.

My sense is that there is real energy around the growing art scene – it was just announced that the museum just brokered a deal to build a new facility from the ground up, the area’s art schools are strong, nascent art districts are becoming more defined with galleries and studios and more & more public works dot the city.

I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery and saw a fun retrospective of Art Spiegelman’s comics, and to the Contemporary Art Gallery and saw a great Nancy Holt photo exhibit. I checked out the totem poles at the Royal BC Museum; there were more in Stanley Park (one of the most spectacular things we saw were the nests of the great blue herons). I found a lot of craft stores and design/home-furnishing stores were practically everywhere. There were not so many great galleries for contemporary art, but I found a few of them, with Jennifer Kostuik, Trench Gallery and Madrona (Victoria) being my favorites.

The tribal art of the Northwest really peaked my interest. Of course, The Bill Reid Gallery (check out his massive relief “Mythic Messengers”) is at the top of the heap; Coastal Peoples had “Haida Masterworks II” which showcased generational continuance of aboriginal art; the Douglas Reynolds Gallery has a gorgeous array of works including prints, masks, totem poles, bronze and stone sculptures, bentwood boxes and jewelry.  It was a treat to meet Elaine Monds over at the Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria; she was happy to talk me through some of history of First Nations art and basics of formline design and the significance of different spirit animals.

Public works are easy to find in Vancouver, thanks in large part to Vancouver Bienniale – it has established a unique program of installing works throughout the city every two years. Because the works stay up for 11-18 months or so, millions of people get to enjoy them. The foundation typically acquires a couple of the sculptures from each Bienniale, increasing the city’s inventory of public works.

My Top 10:

  1. “Traces of Time” by David Burdeny at Jennifer Kostuik Gallery
  2. “Stenten: The Resilience of Line, Locale and Intuition” at Trench Gallery
  3. “Selected Photo and Film Works” by Nancy Holt at Contemporary Art Gallery
  4. Galleries on South Granville, esp. Bau-Xi, Ian Tan & Marion Scott
  5. “Amazing Laughter” by Yue Minjun
  6. “The Drop” by Inges Idee
  7. Totem Poles at Thunderbird Park in Victoria
  8. “Walking Figures” by Magdalena Abakanowicz
  9. Norval Morriseau at Eagle Spirit Gallery
  10.  “Pictures” by Erin Shirreff at Contemporary Art Gallery
Gabriel Dubois at Trench

Gabriel Dubois at Trench

November Sky - David Burdeny at Jennifer Kostuik

November Sky – David Burdeny at Jennifer Kostuik

Warren - running the Vancouver Marathon

Warren – running the Vancouver Marathon

Parliament in Victoria

Parliament in Victoria

Walking Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Walking Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Spring - Alan Chung Hung

Spring – Alan Chung Hung

White Raven (articulated dance mask) at Eagle Spirit Gallery

White Raven (articulated dance mask) by Jordon Seward at Eagle Spirit Gallery

Primary #9 - Mike Banwell

Primary #9 – Mike Banwell

The Drop - Inges Idee

The Drop – Inges Idee

Norval Morrisseau

Norval Morrisseau

Komagata Maru Monument

Komagata Maru Monument

Grand Hotel at Vancouver Art Gallery

Grand Hotel at Vancouver Art Gallery

Amazing Laughter  - Yue Minjun

Amazing Laughter – Yue Minjun

Vancouver - BC Stadium

Vancouver – BC Stadium

Top 10 in DC – Spring 2013


I had the opportunity to go DC twice this Spring, and as a result my “Top 10” list is a little long this time around. It was great to get to go on back-to-back trips because some of the museums and galleries were installing shows during one trip or the other. I know I still missed a lot, but saw enough that my head is still spinning.  I tried to check out different parts of the city – Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Kalaroma, the H Street Corridor, Logan Circle, U Street, and of course the National Mall. It was a special treat to get to meet with Christine Neptune, who showed me about 2 dozen gorgeous Wolf Kahn monotypes; with Robert Brown, who showed me a portfolio of Per Kirkeby’s; and with  Andrea Marinkovich, who had a wonderful David Hockney.

Some of my favorites at the Museums:

  1. “Nam June Paik: Global Visionary” at Smithsonian American Art Museum
  2. “Ellsworth Kelly: Colored Paper Images” at the National Gallery
  3. “Albrecht Dürer: Master Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints from the Albertina” at the National Gallery
  4. “Nordic Cool” at the Kennedy Center
  5. “Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio & Dubuffet” at the Phillips Collection
  6. “Vanitas!” Jeanne Silverthorne at the Phillips Collection
  7. “Portraiture Now: Drawing on the Edge” at The National Portrait Gallery
  8. “Pump Me Up: DC Subculture of the 1980s” at the Corcoran
  9. “On Common Ground: Dominican Republic & Haiti” at American Museum of the Americas
  10. “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848–1900” at National Gallery of Art

And at the Galleries:

  1. “Nothing Rhymes with Orange” at Project 4
  2. “Gordon Parks: An American Lens” at Adamson Gallery
  3. Robert Longo at Adamson Gallery
  4. Mel Bochner at Robert Brown Gallery
  5. “Gathering Space” by Timothy Thompson at Hamiltonian Gallery
  6. “Concrete Abstract” at Heiner Contemporary
  7. William Whitaker at DCAC
  8. “Narciso Maisterra – Recent Work” at Hillyer Art Space
  9. New Paintings by Kevin H. Adams at Gallery Plan B
  10. “Trash Talk” at the Torpedo Factory
Thomas Muller at Project 4

Thomas Muller at Project 4

Thinker on Rock 1997 Barry Flanagan

Thinker on Rock 1997 Barry Flanagan

Trashtalk by Alex Lockwood

Trashtalk by Alex Lockwood

Ellsworth Kelly colored paper

Ellsworth Kelly colored paper

Timothy Thompson Gathering Space

Timothy Thompson Gathering Space

El Maiz - Edgar Negret, 1996 at Organization of American States
El Maiz – Edgar Negret, 1996 at Organization of American States
Juha Pykäläinen - Elk Towers

Juha Pykäläinen – Elk Towers

She Who Must Be Obeyed - Tony Smith

She Who Must Be Obeyed – Tony Smith

Ai Wei Wei - Packing up the zodiac sculptures

Ai Wei Wei – Packing up the zodiac sculptures

Cool Disco Dan at Corcoran

Cool Disco Dan at Corcoran

Jeanne Silverthorne at Phillips Collection

Jeanne Silverthorne at Phillips Collection

David Hockney - An Imaginary Landscape 1967

David Hockney – An Imaginary Landscape 1967

Mel Bochner - From Floating World, 1990

Mel Bochner – From Floating World, 1990

10 Shows to See in Denver Right Now – April 2013


There are so many great shows going on right now – I think that even though it’s still snowing outside, the exhibits are heating up:

  1. The shows at Robischon are an odd mix of Arcimboldo and vanitas  mixed in with woodland adventures and carnivals. As you’d expect at this gallery, the shows flow seemlessly – I think I love everything about it.
  2. “The Art Bucket” by Colin Livingston at Plus Gallery – Perhaps the most provocative show in the city right now. At first glance these highly-energetic swatches of color seem banal. Viewers have the option of leaving it at that or to delve deeper into a confrontational look at commoditization, consumerism, and consumption.
  3. “Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land” at the Denver Art Museum  – go see it now, it’s closing soon!
  4. “Bemsha Swing in Denver” Installation by Yoshitomo Saito at Ironton Studios – He is my kind of artist; his bronze sculptures capture the sacred in the everyday.
  5. “Heidi Jung: Black & White” at the Arvada Center – I especially like the charcoal-on-paper pieces, created in situ.
  6. “Long Lost” by Ryan Everson at Gildar Gallery –  For me, each peace would stand alone better than with the distraction of the others. That said, this Portland artist is clever and thoughtful and he offers up the chance for viewers to feel like they are clever and thoughful too.
  7. “Gather & Gentle Motion” at Walker Fine Art – While Roger Hubbard’s kinetic sculptures seem to be an audience favorite, I am obsessed with Brigan Gresh’s smooth, waxy abstract surfaces that reveal constance evolution of narrative.
  8. “Mind over Matter” at Space Gallery – Some of my favorite paintings out there right now; don’t forget to check out the back gallery where the show continues with Pat Aaron’s “Key West” encaustics and Ian McLaughlin’s “botanical science fiction.”
  9. “Moving Paint 2012-2013” by Ania Gola-Kumor at The Sandra Phillips Gallery – The new gallery space gives her complex paintings the natural light they require; I think they look better than ever.
  10. “Grey Towers” by Monque Crine at Goodwin Fine Art – These black and white paintings document JFK just months before his assassination and sit in dialog with her grandfather’s photographic archives of the same.
Colin Livingston at Plus Gallery

Colin Livingston at Plus Gallery

Ryan Everson at Gildar Gallery

Ryan Everson at Gildar Gallery

Brigan Gresh at Walker FIne Art

Brigan Gresh at Walker Fine Art

Yoshitomo Saito at Ironton Studios

Yoshitomo Saito at Ironton Studios

Nam June Paik at the Smithsonian

I have long been mesmerized by the frenetic visual displays of Nam June Paik’s video installations, but taking a look at the Smithsonian’s current show, “Nam June Paik, Global Visionary” takes it all to another level.  I love seeing retrospectives, and this viewing of his archives, is definitely that – and I do love it!

The thing that I have mentioned with other artists is that it is so helpful to see their work in the context of what was going on in the world at the time. What really sets Paik’s work apart is that he changed the context. He coined the term “Super (Electronic) Highway” 40 years ago and his work foresees the availability of information and unlimited access to media through electronics…at a time when people were still using typewriters, telegrams and postage stamps. His work clearly shows an eye to the editorial – synthesizing historical imagery with news media, cultural commentary and futuristic fantasy in a collage of (at the time) groundbreaking technology.

Check out the show – it is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through August 11, 2013.

Merce-Digital, 1988

Merce-Digital, 1988

Electronic Superhighway Continental US, Alaska, Hawaii (1995)

Electronic Superhighway Continental US, Alaska, Hawaii (1995)

Megatron/Matrix, 1995

Megatron/Matrix, 1995

TV Buddha (1974)

TV Buddha (1974)

Consider Building an Art Collection

I like to go on home & garden tours to get inspiration and to see how my place measures up, and to see art (of course, since it’s what I do). There are the decorated homes – the ones where the artwork just matches each room so perfectly, the size and colors. Those certainly are beautiful homes. Some of the homes have an eclectic vibe which I guess I relate to because that is most often how I describe my own home. Then there are the homes where the owners have so much stuff: posters, paintings, photographs, odd farm-equipment sculptures, wind chimes, glass-eyed porcelain dolls in the guestroom, bric-a-brac.

Every once in a while, a home just makes so much sense – those are the ones where there is such obvious thought behind every decision. The artwork seems to take on a different purpose – each choice is made in the context of the others. Whether the homes have American folk art, impressionist paintings or black & white photography, those are the tours I really love.

The art collections that get me going are really focused; I love the idea that someone develops a set of ground rules and then uses those parameters to actually choose their art. If you want to take a more deliberate approach to getting artwork – try to at least consider it in terms of how it might work in your “collection”.  Most of us wind up finding something we like here and something we like there and then just kind of throw it all together, wondering why it doesn’t necessarily work. The result is that trove of abandoned treasures under the beds, in the closets, basements, attics, or out in the garage.

Of course, you could hire a consultant like me – but even if you don’t, give your choices some thought.  Whether you just discuss your ideas with someone or you chart it out or put it into a spreadsheet, try to establish some guidelines. If you can articulate a framework for the artwork you choose, you can begin to build a collection.

For more information on how I can help you acquire art and/or care for what you already have, see the about tab on my blog.  I’d love to help.


Laura Letinsky at the Denver Art Museum

Laura Letinsky: Still Life Photographs, 1997–2012, is on view through March 24, 2013 at the Denver Art Museum.

Laura Letinsky is one of those smart ones – you know the type that makes you wish you had really focused on your homework.

Letinsky is well-versed in art history and it shows; her gorgeous still-life images are immediately accessible to the viewer because of their familiarity. The influence is obvious and yet… there is something more…or less. These aren’t the luscious depictions of the lavishly abundant Dutch tables of the 17th Century. Hers are barely-there pieces of fruit on white linens with white backdrops. There are none of the skulls of the vanitas, and yet there is the melancholic reminder that her stories are of moments passed.

Letinsky is a philosopher. We generally obsess with that fleeting moment of perfection when a peach is at its very juiciest firm-fleshed fullest or a lily is sweetly fragrant. Letinsky’s focus is more on the reality this is the penultimate state of dying. In her photos the fruit has that juicy-sticky quality that makes us want just to clean it up before the flies begin choke on the decay. The perfume is beginning to remind us of the stench of fetid water.

Letinsky is a technician – she uses film and she knows all those things that photographers seem to know about cameras and lenses and lighting. I heard her talk and for all I know, when it came to the technical “stuff” she could have been describing how to build spaceships.

Letinksy is a photographer – Of course she knows that the images engage viewers to connect the dots to history and confront mortality and philosophize about perceived meaning, but above all else she is a photographer. I once asked a painter about some of her recent works – the symbolism or meaning of the recurrent imagery; she laughed and told me “It’s paint on a canvas.” It’s funny because I didn’t quite get it then; I mean, it seemed like an idea I could get behind when looking at Abstract Expressionism, but her paintings were figurative. I do get it now – Letinsky’s work sets it out there: there is decaying fruit, spilt wine, paper cups and wrappers; but ultimately they are photographs. She is in the business of taking light and color and composition and capturing that with her camera in a way that allows her to share her “paint on a canvas.”

"Untitled #54" from the series "Hardly More Than Ever," 2002, by Laura Letinsky. (Photo provided by the Yancey Richardson Gallery)

“Untitled #54” from the series “Hardly More Than Ever,” 2002


Untitled, #5 2005 To Say It Isn’t So



Untitled #2 from the series "The Dog and the Wolf," 2008

Untitled #2 from the series “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008

Untitled #1 31x40 from the series "The Dog & The Wolf"

Untitled #1 31×40 from the series “The Dog and the Wolf” 2008

The Menil Collection – art in context

It means so much – collection…collection of art; collection of antiquities; collection of museums; collection of philanthropic causes; marks made on the world; lives well-lived. John and Dominique de Menil were key figures responsible for propelling Houston to the top of the list of truly great art cities. They developed the art department at the University of St. Thomas and later the Institute for the Arts at Rice University. They had a long and storied history of support to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, to which they brought major exhibitions and gave important works. They engaged architects from around the world to bring the first modernist, international style buildings to the state. They amassed a collection of more than 17,000 pieces of art: paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, prints, drawings, photographs and rare books. The museum campus opened in 1987 with later buildings opening in the 90’s which house the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall, the Bysantine Fresco Chapel. The Rothko Chapel (ca. 1971), the Loretto Park with Tony Smith and Mark di Suvero sculptures and the network of offices housed in bungalows and walkways tucked throughout the neighborhood complete the campus.

Last month, we got the chance to spend a nearly perfect day walking around the Menil Collection.

What a suprise! We started at the Rothko Chapel, fully prepared to wait with the crowds that would surely be lined around the block. Instead, we parked at the entrance, we walked though the garden to view Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk” standing in the reflection pool out front and then we walked in.

I must admit I had brief concerns that we might be trespassing – “6 million people in Houston must know that you are not supposed to actually go the Rothko Chapel, right?” After I was convinced that it was open and we should check it out, we did.. and we loved it.

The austere space is an octagonal room constructed of brick and covered in gray stucco and capped with a baffled skylight. It is tranquil – actually , National Geographic Society named it “One of the world’s most peaceful and powerful destinations.” On the walls are 14 site-specific canvases painted by Mark Rothko. At first glance, they look like windows – a series of big blank black canvases. We walked around the room, looking at the canvases from different angles and taking in the effect of each from across the room. Then we moved in closer. We walked up to a canvas until we reached that point at which the painting completely filled our fields of vision. I expected to realize some sort of calming meditative state – you know, staring into an abyss.

What happed was amazing! It was the most unusual experience: the clouds outside passed over the skylight and it was as if the canvas came to life. We had been patient and open to what the works had to offer and, in turn they began to breathe…slowly at first “did you see that?” and then with a steadiness that allowed us to see the colors and strokes and patterns. We saw the purples and reds, the horizontal and vertical lines, compositions on display that had been mostly overlooked. We began to move from canvas to canvas, slowly and then more quickly as the paintings gave us the keys to unlock their treasures.

I have to tell you, I probably could have ended the day at this point and been fully satisfied with our discovery – but that is just not me; I almost always have to keep going. I am compulsive when it comes to looking at art and knowing one of the world’s great collections was just a block away…of course, we checked it out.

We walked through the Montrose neighborhood of modest little bungalows; down tree-lined streets and little gardens and walkways and then Loretto Park with Tony Smith and Jim Love sculptures up to the museum. We crossed over Michael Heizer’s negative spaces, rifts in the lawn and into the main pavillion.

I was delighted to be greeted with Yves Klein’s luscious blue paintings – I think I have said it in previous posts, but his paintings make me feel like I could just dive right into that pure saturated color. We toured the main museum building and were impressed with the collections. We saw the Claes Oldenberg “Strange Eggs”; we checked out the galleries of works by Ernst, Johns, Léger, Martin, Matisse, Picasso,Raushcenberg,Tanguy, Warhol. We saw indigenous art from Africa and the Pacific Islands; we got to see the Cycladic and Greco-Roman collections.

We kept it moving though – there was even more to see. We walked outside the main building and continued through the campus, ducking between bungalows to find Richmond Hall, an old neighborhood grocery turned dance hall. Dominique de Menil acquired it in the 80’s and had since converted the space to house site-specific light installations by Dan Flavin. It’s truly like stepping into another world: the grey concrete space is lined on either side with flourescent sequences of yellow, green, blue and red…vertical columns, one after another after another repeating through the entire space. It was pure joy.

Finally, we made our way to the Cy Twombly Gallery. He is one of my favorite artists (I know, I know I have a lot of them) – coincidentally, I went to school in his hometown of Lexington, VA. His work is hard to categorize – not exactly AbEx, not quite Minimalism not Pop, but all of those. If you explore his seemingly crazy, energetic scribbles, you find traces of poetry – references to history and mythology and always scrict adherence to composition. The marks are set, then erased and then brought back. The colors melt like the fading of memories of stories being told. This time around, my favorites were the green paintings. The gallery is a gorgeous, light-filled space (again baffled skylights) that avails itself from one space to the next. The design of the space combines with the work, much like the other buildings on the Menil campus.

The effect thoughout the collection is to elevate the experience and to interact with the artwork. For me, it made me look at artwork that I thought should be familiar and consider the power of context.

Barnett Newman "Broken Obelisk" at Rothko Chapel

Barnett Newman “Broken Obelisk” at Rothko Chapel

Michael Heizer at Menil Collection

Michael Heizer at Menil Collection

Rothko Chapel

Rothko Chapel

Cy Twombly Gallery

Cy Twombly Gallery

Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall

Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall

The Lucky Elite

I was reading an old article that Janet Tassel wrote in the Harvard Magazine about the role art museums play in civilization. She goes on a bit in different directions, but ultimately reflects the line of thinking that museums are repositories of collected objects that showcase the greatest achievements throughout the ages. As institutions, they should be be set apart and keep a view to the long arc of history, not the whims of popular society.

In the article, James Cuno (then of the Harvard Museum, now head of the Getty) and Philippe de Montebello (the Metropolitan) both concur that museums are by definition elitist. “That is what art is, and that is what every visitor to the museum is—by crossing the threshhold they are joining the elite.”

This got me to thinking – the other day I went to the Hirshhorn to see Ai Weiwei’s exhibit “According to What?”  I was really looking forward to it and wanted to make sure I took my time and thought about the works and gave each and every installation and object the thoughtful consideration it was due.  Given I might have been a little hungry and going to an exhibit with low blood sugar is not the best, but I found myself distracted and really annoyed by almost everyone around me.

I was put off that no one seemed to treat the show with the same deference that I was giving it. I know it was a holiday weekend and a lot of people were travelling but really…pulling suitcases through the museum?  It seemed to me like the kids were running around – making shadow puppets on the walls of video projections; people were taking calls to arrange travel, to make dinner plans, and who know what kind of sordid engagements. One guy had his skateboard – and the cameras were click, click, clicking….ughhhh!!!

I got to the installation of beautifully crafted chests that are designed so that viewers can look through their various openings and see the phases of the moon. After waiting patiently for my turn to check it out, when I got to the opening my lovable and humorous partner was there smiling through the other side.

He got me to stop a moment, breathe and re-frame my experience.  I could choose to enjoy myself or not and I could choose to be bothered by the crowds or not.  I looked around and actually envied those other people – the kids running around without a care and the adults that didn’t need to give their full attention to the exhibit. How wonderful it is that children are exposed to art and given the opportunity to be themselves around it. All those visitors were living their lives in a setting where art was a part of it.

It occurs to me that a lot of us don’t get that luxury of experience – I didn’t grow up running around inside museums and galleries. For most of us, if we do wind up crossing that ‘threshhold’, we stand in awe of what we’ve been missing.

For those lucky elite, they’re not missing a thing.

Moon Chests – Ai Weiwei with Warren

Seeing Artwork During Vacation

We just got back from vacation; we spent 7 days in Barcelona with my partner’s parents and then took a few extra days for ourselves to drive up into France and around Provence. 

Barcelona is a treat and it was great to get to share it with family.  I used to travel there on business, but it was new for the rest of our group.  We decided to rent an apartment right off La Rambla and enjoyed the convenience of being in the heart of the city.  From there we easily walked along the marina in Port Vell, over to the beaches of Barceloneta, through the gothic quarter and along the famed Passeig de Gracia.  One day we took a drive up to Figueres to see the Dalí museum and then we walked around Girona, enjoyed lunch in the old town and checked out the 11th century gothic cathedral.

After the folks left, we headed up into France and toured around a few days in Provence. The French border is only two hours and yet worlds away – we were struck by the changes in landscape as we skirted the Pyrenees and drove into the Camargue (an alluvial plain – a landscape that reminded us of the Chesapeake Bay), the food, the culture and the expense (seemed like the cost of everything immediately doubled). We stayed in Arles and then did excursions to Aix, Avignon and Montpellier.

All in all, it was a great trip for us – we did a lot but not too much…we paced ourselves and ultimately it was just right. We did wind up seeing a fair amount (okay, a lot) of art along the way – my top 10 this time around:

  1. Fundacio Miró
  2. Picasso Museum
  3. Sagrada Familia
  4. La Pedrera
  5. Dalí Museum in Figueres
  6. Palau de la Musica
  7. Park Güell
  8. Fundació Antoni Tàpies
  9. Hervé Di Rosa at Carré Sainte Anne in Montpellier
  10. Van Gogh café in Arles

La Pedrera

Palau de la Musica

Salvador Dali sculpture


Sagrada Familia


“l’Oeuf” (Place de la Comédie) in Montpellier

Hervé Di Rosa Yhayen (Procession)

Cafe Van Gogh

El Anatsui at the Denver Art Museum

“When I Last Wrote to You about Africa” is El Anatsui’s retrospective show, currently at the Denver Art Museum.

It’s funny…I find myself talking about favorite artists and I guess I have a lot of them because he is definitely one of my favorites.

I first began seeing his work about 10 years ago when I was travelling back and forth to London. Since then, I have admired his work in New York, Washington, DC, Paris, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Seattle and here in Denver. I have been enamored with the metal tapestries of bottle caps draped on walls, suspended from the ceiling and seemingly dropped onto the floors. I have tried to grasp the underlying meanings of using recycled found materials, and the obvious consumption and economic engines behind the overwhelming volume of bottle caps, largely from liquor bottles.  I have looked at the patterns and made my assumptions about their connection to distant and unkown (to me) cultures.  Mostly, I have enjoyed the high/low; hard/soft; heavy/weightless; effortless/meticulous nature of the work…they are truly stunning, shimmering works that leave me spellbound.

So with all that in mind, I thought I had some idea of who El is as an artist and what I could expect in seeing the retrospective, pulled together by Lisa Binder, Curator at the Museum for African Art, New York.

I was so wrong – I was in no way prepared for the breadth of experience and depth of his work.  The show brings together the full range of the artist’s work, from wood trays carved with symbols familiar to the Akan people of Ghana; his Broken Pots series (and his unbroken ceramic pots); beautiful paintings rich in color, symbology and landscape; driftwood statues, and even the beloved metal wall-hangings that have taken the art world by storm in recent years. I was thankful to get to hear him talk about his experiences, his development as an artist and as a professor and his mostly just his work.

If you get the chance to see the show, in Denver through the end of the year, and then in Dallas this winter, do…definitely do.  I have a feeling you might just discover one of your favorite artists too!

El Anatsui – Old Cloth Series at Denver Art Museum