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20 May 2010

The Denver Art Museum’s new (circa 2006) Hamilton Building will make you do the Angle Dance, guaranteed. Not one of the building’s planes—be it floor, wall, or ceiling—is parallel or perpendicular to another. Consider that for a moment.

The design is meant to recall “the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and geometric rock crystals found in the foothills near Denver,” an idea stretched by the building’s architect, and the exhibit designers. If you are able, suspend your disbelief and “peaks and rock crystals” may be found everywhere—in the artwork hung directly onto skewed walls and the sculptures tucked into odd spaces where acute and obtuse walls meet. Here, display juxtaposition/vertigo:

No disbelief-suspension is needed to appreciate the angularity brought to aspects of the exhibit design. Highlight One: the display cases in the gallery of Arican art.

Those light fixtures leave something to be desired (they’re so big and distracting!) but otherwise, the cases are intriguing and beautifully highlight the artifacts.

Highlight Two: the dimensional letters used for gallery names. The letters’ faces are perpendicular to the floor, and the depth, top-to-bottom, varies to meet the angle of the wall. I love the beautiful shapes and the shadows they create.

As for the art itself, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the gallery of post-1900 Western American art (it’s not a genre I’d usually leap to explore)—and not in the least surprised to find that I enjoyed this installation by Sandy Skoglund.


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