Herbert Bayer Collection

The Denver Art Museum finally finds a permanent home for Herbert Bayer’s works.

Despite all of the limitations she's been confronted with — elevator doors and a variety of other openings taking up nearly all the prime wall space, a narrow corridor with a descending, ramp-like floor — Chanzit came up with a single, unified expression of Bayer's artistic output while also demonstrating the range of his aesthetic interests.

In the elevator lobby, on the staircase landing and in the conference room and auditorium are the paintings and prints Bayer did during his Aspen period. Among the earliest paintings is "aspen trees," from 1957, which is an abstract-expressionist painting suggesting a grove of aspen trees. But Bayer's signature style of the '60s and '70s was geometric abstraction, in which hard-edged forms were arranged in tight, highly organized compositions. One such piece is "chromatic gate," from 1969, in which a portal is suggested by a proscenium of rainbow-colored bars set on a yellow field.

In the oddly shaped triangulated showcases built into the walls are models for Bayer's sculptures. There's one for "anaconda," a fountain that once graced the interior of Denver's Anaconda Building but has been in storage since an insensitive remodeling in the mid-'90s. The fountain is made up of geometric forms in white marble emerging from a shallow pool. In the other showcase are models for his monumental sculptures, including "articulated wall," the big, yellow concrete helix visible from I-25.

"aspen trees," by Herbert Bayer, oil on canvas.
"aspen trees," by Herbert Bayer, oil on canvas.
Bayer's "anaconda," a marble fountain for the Anaconda Building.
Bayer's "anaconda," a marble fountain for the Anaconda Building.

Details

Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000.

For a complete slide show of the exhibit, click here.

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The corridor has been split down the middle: On one side is an array of Bayer's important surrealist photos; on the other are drawings and plans for his revolutionary earthworks in Aspen. Many Bayer photos are world-famous and are frequently included in books on the history of fine-art photography. Surely everyone knows his famous "self-portrait," from 1932, wherein he is depicted wide-eyed in amazement as he removes a piece of his arm. Particular standouts in the earthworks group are the pencil drawings of the grass-covered mounds that were often paired with his sculptures.

So the able Chanzit has constructed four interlocking mini-shows about the breadth of Bayer's art, each of which is intelligently conceived in its own context. Not only that, but she has also cleverly — and to some extent, successfully — shoehorned the four-part presentation into this set of very difficult spaces. I expected nothing less from her, though it's too bad that she had to.

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