Dumb and Dumber

Jonathan Borofsky's "The Dancers" waltz into Denver.

Another figure seen in Borofsky's '80s installations is an androgynous form posed as though it were dancing, though without any kinetic features like the "Hammering Man" sculptures. Those androgynous figures, of course, are the prototypes for Denver's "The Dancers," proving that, contrary to what many people seem to think, this style and type of piece is hardly unexpected from Borofsky. Also, like the earlier examples, "The Dancers" has an audio component that broadcasts music from its base.

The human scale of the runners-up, the Lipski and the Boteros, suggested the way in which Tieken, Kemper and many others, including myself, were thinking about the sculpture park: Its relatively small size surely called for many relatively small sculptures. In fact, there was a full-scale mock-up of what a sculpture-studded park could look like a couple of years ago when a show by Joel Shapiro, co-sponsored by the DAM, brought more than a score of his fabulous pieces to the lawn.

But with the Borofsky sucking up all the visual space available, it's impossible to imagine that anything else could be added to the park. Oddly, the imposing size does not lend the piece a sense of monumentality but instead makes it feel bombastic. What other sculptures could possibly hold up to it -- except, perhaps, for another Borofsky? But then the park would look like an overcrowded china cabinet. This all-consuming hit-you-over-the-head effect of "The Dancers" does give it something in common with the nearby under-construction Colorado Convention Center: Both are way too big for their sites and for the gracious scale of the adjacent Speer Boulevard.

Jonathan Borofsky's "The Dancers" tower over the 
Denver Sculpture Park.
Jonathan Castner
Jonathan Borofsky's "The Dancers" tower over the Denver Sculpture Park.

The CCC plays an essential role in the Borofsky saga, because public-art money earmarked for it -- as well as funds held by Denver's parks and recreation department -- were shifted over to the Denver Sculpture Park when private fundraising reached its outer limits at just under a million. This fiduciary sleight of hand was a surprise, because the city had previously refused to move art money from one project to another -- which is why there's a lot of public art in Denver in out-of-the-way places like under bridges and on the pavement. But there was something decidedly different about the Borofsky: Wilma Webb had picked it out, and it would be embarrassing if it never happened. So, presto-change-o, the rules fell by the wayside -- just as they had in the naming of the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building. In both cases the city council did the mayor's bidding, as usual, and carried out the necessary legal maneuvers to change the relevant ordinances.

It may sound elitist, but wasn't it better when public art was chosen with no input from the public? Especially because now the public is represented by politicians or their wives.

It's a real pity that the CCC wasn't constructed in the Platte Valley, where former mayor Federico Peña wanted to build it, because the open spaces over there would have easily accommodated it, and one of those huge parks would have readily handled something the size of the Borofsky. Though there are many things I don't like about "The Dancers," if it had more room to breathe, I wouldn't hate it as much as I do -- and I wouldn't have to look at it as often, either.

And, to be blunt, I do hate it. I think the figures are ungainly and awkward in detail and overall appearance. Sure, Borofsky is an important artist, but I've never felt that he was great at cutting space with form, and that's painfully apparent in the case of "The Dancers." The feet are too big, and the conventionalizing of the musculature and the features of the faces seem clumsy. All of this was intentional on Borofsky's part, being that he's in the generation that rejects beauty and elegance and instead pointedly tries to do things that look dumb.

Or would that be mindless? Coming over the Speer Boulevard bridge, I observed that on one side, there's a ball field named for a beer, on the other, a sports arena named for a soft drink, plus a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel -- and now a pair of cartoon characters dancing the jitterbug. Having fun yet, Denver?

The kid-friendly charm of "The Dancers" is guaranteed to make them popular among the youngsters, and just last week I saw a couple of teenagers throwing a Frisbee through the legs of the colossal figures. It was this sight that inspired a thought: What if those teens displaced from Skyline Park found their way down here? Wouldn't that be funny?

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1 comments
cindysorta
cindysorta

 It's been almost exactly 10 years to the day that they removed that beautiful water tower that crowned the old Gates Rubber Company factory building. 

This has to be viewed in light of what occurred just a few months before: what i call the "craven aliens" sprouted up off Speer Blvd. like those white mushrooms that grow where doggy poop has once briefly flourished.


It really has been 10 years. 

In my search for accountability for this ongoing crime I came upon this lovely piece by Mr. Paglia.


I thought in vain that they might grow on me - I knew instinctively that they would not. If anything, my resentment toward them has become amplified. 

To please the prigs they kept them devoid of sexual organs. Additionally, possibly in an effort to not alienate the GLBLT community, androgyny was sought for - but this was achieved by removing all suggestion of hips or natural line, rendering the already craven forms sterile and lacking humanity, like starved, if somehow enthusiastic, wraiths. 

They chafe the nipples, let's all admit it.

The hand-holding reminds one less of an elegant dancing couple and more of the automated naivety of The Epcot Center in Disney World. I'm surprised that they didn't decide to turn them out in grey concrete, so as to please absolutely everybody.

I can't but twist the kris here - they could have done better to have just erected two 60 foot standard artist figure models, the timeless design of which has achieved androgyny with reasonable form for decades. They would've been tantalisingly adjustable (and they still don't know who stole that Sinclair dinosaur).
Every time I drive over or under the old Gates factory building there is a hole where my heart used to be.
The shock of the water tower's removal was more than matched by the shock of seeing "The Dancers" for the first time (even the title is innocuous and redundant).

In fact, even 10 years on, in slow traffic, I still feel an involuntary water-balloon smack
of derision at the sight of that double-whammie of non-offensive rear end, probably the parts of the thing that singularly offended me the most from the very start and that still singularly does, and i know i'm not alone on this one.
A friend of mine's mother from the UK, who I had just picked uP from DIA, actually gulped, "my word", when we sailed past it one summer evening, years ago, when it was lit up. 

Maybe this all happened because of a perceived need to not appear like a blue-collar cowtown. In awkwardly denying its roots, Denver ended up looking like a rube anxious that he or she might be holding the cutlery incorrectly at a formal dinner, just to look inexplicably self-concious in the end.

For a few decades there, for its properties, rubber was the only game in town.  Queen Victoria's nephew, King Leopold II of Belgium, for 20 years enslaved the whole Congo River Basin for the collection of wild vine rubber before he was sanctioned for it.
 Rubber was a decisive factor of World War II. Japan invaded Malaysia for her rubber alone.
The Nazis at the height of the war, where GM or Ford couldn't provide it for them, had to resort to making it synthetically. It really helped to decide the war. 
Generations worked at the Gates Rubber Co. Along with Samsonite across the street and the US Government, they were Denver's main employers. 
That legacy is something to be proud of - the nomenclature looked great as a piece of history and it didn't cost nothin' - certainly not 1.58 million dollars.

 
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