Starting Now

Thereís more to see at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver than the building itself.

In the Joseph Crescenti Family Paper Works Gallery is Chris Ofili, with nearly two dozen watercolors by the Nigerian-born British artist who now lives in Trinidad. Done in what look like poster paints on newsprint, the untitled pieces are similar paintings of the artist's African muses. The identically sized depictions of nude black women have been outlined using iridescent colors. They are impressive in their totality, but less so when examined individually. Ofili, one of the so-called YBAs — Young British Artists — was catapulted to fame some years ago when he incorporated elephant dung and pornography into a portrait of the Madonna, raising the ire of then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Becoming a bête noire of the right was Ofili's breakout moment.

In the Vicki and Kent Logan Promenade is an installation by Wangechi Mutu called Will Honey Flavoured Milk Soften That Pig Fed Rage? Mutu is from Kenya but lives in New York. This piece, which includes bottles of milk hanging from the ceiling, acrylic high-heeled shoes covering the window and strapping tape attached to a wall decorated with photo-transfers of slaughtered pigs, is a total mess. It reminded me of nothing other than a student show that would have earned its creator a C-plus.

The final Star Power solo, David Altmejd, is the one that has received the most word-of-mouth raving. Altmejd has lined the walls of the Family of Natasha Cong-don Large Works Gallery with mirrors and placed a group of mirror-clad sculptures inside. In doing so, he has fabricated an entire world that's both primordial (owing to the anthropomorphic imagery) and swank (owing to all the mirrors). Altmejd, of Canada, is that country's representative in this year's Venice Biennale.

Rangi Kipa's "Whare Whakairo," detail, carved and painted wood.
Mike Egan
Rangi Kipa's "Whare Whakairo," detail, carved and painted wood.


Various closing dates beginning February 9, Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, a slide show of the exhibit, go to

Interestingly, Altmejd has just been named one of Out magazine's top one hundred gay men, meaning he is the only part of Star Power that directly relates to its subtitle, Museum as Body Electric. This phrase was inspired by Walt Whitman's poem "I Sing the Body Electric," an account of the poet's enthusiasm for picking up guys. For Payton, however, it represents the broader meaning of being subversive in general, and by that definition, everything in Star Power qualifies.

In addition to Star Power, the work of two Colorado artists is on display on the third floor. In the MCA Cafe are a series of abstract ceramics by Boulder's Kim Dickey, called "Museum as Theater as Garden." Dickey's sculptures are conventionalized depictions of bushes that line shelves surrounding the seating area. As could be expected from this gifted postmodernist, they're tremendous. On the roof deck, in the June S. Gates Garden, is a landscape installation by Karla Dakin, also from Boulder. "Sky Trapeziums" includes big metal planters that rise off the decking.

Payton should be lauded for the ambitiousness of the whole endeavor — though I do wish she had opened the new MCA with an all-Colorado cast instead of taking the Peace Corps approach.

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