By Show and Tell
By Byron Graham
By Jamie Siebrase
By Bree Davies
By Zoe Yabrove
By Zoe Yabrove
By Jamie Siebrase
By Emilie Johnson
Vicki and Kent Logan are high-profile art collectors and generous donors. Former residents of the Bay Area, they first made a name for themselves in the art world when they gave a substantial gift of contemporary works to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This happened at roughly the same time that the museum opened its high-style Mario Botta-designed building, and needless to say, the Logans' gesture garnered them widespread attention in the art press. Lucky for us in Colorado, the two maintain residences in Vail and Denver and have thrown around quite a bit of largesse here, too.
Their major charitable gesture in town, so far, has been a fractional and promised gift of over 200 works of art to the Denver Art Museum. "Fractional" because the Logans retain partial ownership of the works, and "promised" because only part of the donation is made each year, for tax reasons. Only a few of the Logan pieces have been exhibited at the DAM, so one of the grand-opening shows for Daniel Libeskind's Hamilton Building next year will feature selections from their gift. The Logans are piggybacking on the publicity the Hamilton Building will generate, just like they did after their donation to the museum in San Francisco. Surely they will be lauded for their generosity -- and they richly deserve all the credit that's going to be heaped on them.
The DAM has had a long association with the University of Denver; museum curator Gwen Chanzit is a permanent faculty member, and several others teach classes from time to time. Chanzit, a curator in the Modern and Contemporary department at the museum, connected the Logans with DU. The first joint Logan/DU endeavor was an exhibit of the work of two of the most important African-American artists in the country, Robert Colescott and Glenn Ligon. DU professor Shannen Hill did that show last year, using mostly Logan pieces from the DAM.
Even then, the idea was to have students, not professors, organize Logan Collection-based shows and present them in DU's Victoria H. Myhren Gallery. The students would work within the guidelines of a groundbreaking class, the Marsico Curatorial Practicum, which is funded as a part of the $10 million Marsico Initiative and is the only class of its kind taught anywhere in the country. It's no surprise that Chanzit was the professor to teach the first of these classes, which was held during the ten-week-long spring quarter of 2004. The result, IN LIMBO, opened just last week, and it is great in every way. The show was done in a thoroughly professional manner -- there's even a catalogue -- despite being the work of neophytes. With Chanzit at the helm, though, I'd have expected nothing less.
Ten weeks isn't much time to curate and lay out a show as ambitious as IN LIMBO, so Chanzit had the fifteen students dive right in. Their initial assignment the first week was to examine the hundreds of digital images of the Logan pieces housed at the DAM and in the Logans' private collection. They then used a computer program to come up with three digital exhibits, each complete with a theme and a checklist. The second week, the students presented their virtual shows to the class. "There were things like Men in Black and Angry Babies," Chanzit says with a chuckle, "and other wonderful titles."
Chanzit thought these early proposals were marvelous, but since it was the students' first crack at putting on shows -- virtual or otherwise -- she had them do it all over again, so that by the end of three weeks, they'd each put together six different exhibits.
After this warmup, Chanzit broke the class into three groups and charged each with creating a single show. Astoundingly, considering the hundreds of things up for consideration, two of the results were very similar, and the ultimate show, IN LIMBO, is the direct heir of these. A piece or two from the third show also wound up in the final exhibit. "I think that was the hardest thing that they did, to come up with one gallery exhibition for the entire class," Chanzit says.
The students had already put together a foam-core scale model of the Myhren and learned to size the artworks, so when the final selections were made, they created a miniature version of their display. But they weren't done yet -- not by a long shot. Next, there were numerous hurdles to clear, including the irascible faculty gallery committee, which okayed the show but vetoed the students' proposed title, Absence and Presence, forcing them to brainstorm in order to come up with IN LIMBO.
With the exception of Cindy Sherman and John Currin, the artists selected by the students were far from household names, and they needed to be researched. Throughout the process, the students had been assembling artist files, so research was being done simultaneously with the rest of the activities. The students also took on the tasks of doing the label copy, creating press kits and writing the captions and essays for the catalogue; by the end of the quarter last June, they pretty much had everything done.
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