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In a few days, though, the Turrell's lights will be turned off, probably for a very long time, and other large things will be put away indefinitely. The first of the traveling shows that will be installed in the Stanton galleries are an exhibit of central-Asian textiles and later a collection of European masterpieces.
Apparently, we'll just have to wait until the new wing is completed before a large selection of the DAM's modern and contemporary art collection will be on display again. And in a culture like ours, with its too-short attention span, that seems like a downright eternity.
Thankfully, the privately funded Vance Kirkland Close Range Gallery will continue -- at least for a few years -- to be the principal beachhead for the Modern and Contemporary Art department.
Its current offering is Collecting Ideas: Works From the Polly and Mark Addison Collection. The Addisons, who live in Frisco, are among the state's best-known collectors of contemporary art. Vanderlip selected more than two dozen pieces for this show, which is only a small percentage of the Addisons' large collection.
"Dianne came to me with the idea a couple of years ago," Mark Addison says. "She made up a list, gave it to me, and it all just came together this past spring or summer."
Although the Addisons are both retired, they maintain a very active lifestyle. "We teach skiing at Copper Mountain," Mark says. "Both Polly and I work the weekends during the season, and then I flip a switch on Tuesday and drive down to Boulder, where I become an academic for a day a week." Addison is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado in the fine-arts department. "I donate back all but one dollar of my salary to the department," he says.
Addison can afford to work for this symbolic salary because he made a fortune in the floral-supply industry; wealth may not be an absolutely essential prerequisite for art collecting, but it sure helps.
The Addisons have been collecting art for more than forty years, "but I've been interested in art since I was a child," Mark continues. "Every summer when I was growing up, I was enrolled in the Chicago Art Institute's classes."
The pieces in Collecting Ideas are all over the map stylistically and in terms of medium. There honestly seems to be no aesthetic pattern that connects one thing to another aside from the fact that all were done during the last thirty years. "We've got a lot of breadth, but not much depth," says Addison with a laugh. "First we were interested in strong images -- really good strong paintings and drawings. That's where it started. Later we moved from strong images to strong ideas."
We get some notion of how disjointed the show is in the alcove anteroom just outside the Close Range. In this section, two thoroughly different artistic approaches are laid out. On one side is a trio of neo-traditional oil paintings depicting the human figure; on the other side is something that's entirely different in every conceivable way, a video and mixed-media sculpture by the legendary Nam June Paik.
Presented with this diversity problem, Vanderlip chose to install the show densely and with no apparent stylistic organization. Although this is a direct reflection of the Addisons' approach, it does make it hard to appreciate individual pieces. Look carefully, though, because there are a number of fine things here.
One of the real standouts is the 1969 Jasper Johns, "The Critic Smiles," a lead relief of a toothbrush with teeth standing in for the bristles. Also unforgettable is Ilya Bolotowshky's sublime minimalist sculpture "Cube," from 1963.
Collecting Ideas will be open for the next couple of months, but in a few days, Close Range will essentially be the only place at the DAM for modern and contemporary art for years to come.
I wonder if the trustees at the currently rudderless Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver realize the implications of the DAM's taking a hiatus from modern and contemporary art. Well, at least one is very obvious: The DAM has presented MoCAD with the priceless opportunity to substantially raise its profile in the city's art world.
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