Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Real Action is Going on Inside You

Jan and I spent yesterday afternoon tooling around in downtown Denver. Andrew is off with his soccer buddies this weekend in Salt Lake City watching the US men's soccer team play Costa Rica so we finally had a weekend without a single soccer game or kids event to attend. Cool.

The US soccer team ended up playing in Salt Lake City because no matter where they play in the US they can't get the home field advantage. They played Honduras in Alabama and 60% of the fans were pulling for the Hondurans! That's gotta be a little discouraging. So they checked out the demographics of Northern Utah and realized that the Latin American immigration tide hasn't hit La Tierra de Los Mormones quite as hard.

If the US soccer marketing wing was really on top of things the US team would have entered the stadium by the Great Salt Lake in a two-by-two procession on bikes. Every one of them would have carried a Book of Mormon in their backpacks. Sort of like the Gideon bibles in motel rooms. You can never have enough good luck.

We ran around Cheeseman Park, which is one of the coolest city spaces in a city full of remarkable public parks. And we got a chance to see the Kirkland Museum, which is dedicated to the art of Vance Kirkland. Kirkland was Colorado's most famous and significant artist during the 20th century. I didn't know much about him before we moved here but I've been learning and we finally got around to checking out the Kirkland.

Wonderful stuff. Take a look for yourself at Go to the "pictures" link and you can see some of his representative work.

The guy went through a bunch of stylistic changes, all at a world class level. Early on he was making realistic watercolors and he ended up doing a surrealist stage and then creating some great abstract expressionist stuff in the 50's. During the 60's and 70's he did what he called "dot painting/energy in space" works that would look right at home in an Austin Powers movie (ya, baby, ya!). At the link above check out that section of Kirkland's paintings and take a look at "Orange and Yellow Suns in Grey Space" to see what I mean.

He wore three piece suits at all times and by the time he was doing the dot stuff during the 60's and 70's he was a doddering old guy in his 60's and 70's. But his work during that period was out there. His motto was "the real action is going on inside you."

The museum itself is unexpected too. Most art museums are mostly stark empty spaces with lots of room given to each piece of art. At the Kirkland it seemed like every square inch of wall space had some kind of art on it, and throughout the floorspace of the gallery they exhibit wonderful decorative art (furniture, various appliances, knick-nacks, etc.) from the same period as the paintings you're looking at. Kirkland himself collected some of it and the foundation that runs the museum collected the rest. They've also got lots of Colorado art too.

It's pretty overwhelming but very cool.

Some of the art nouveau and art deco decorative stuff is as good or better than any of the work on the walls. The whole place celebrates beauty at every level from the paintings to the paleo-ash trays from the 50's.

The woman at the ticket booth told me that most art museums only show about 5-10% of their collection at one time but that the Kirkland shows about 50%. I've never seen that before. Kind of creative in itself.

I got the feeling they were trying to express Kirkland's creative anarchy in the way they did the layout. Creativity is rarely ordered and sequential. Synergy in the midst of a lightly and effectively managed mess may be the way things actually get made in the real world. So maybe this way of doing an art space reflects the artist better than the antiseptic and stark white corredors of most art museums I've seen.

I'm looking forward to getting back there again soon and getting into it a little more deeply.


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