The radical forms of Daniel Libeskind's Frederic C. Hamilton Building have been difficult for the Denver Art Museum's staff -- and builders -- to tame, so thank goodness for that old reliable friend, Gio Ponti and James Sudler's North Building, where, without any fanfare, changes are afoot inside.
The North Building's former Hamilton Gallery on the first floor is being restored to the handsome public space it once was. Walls are being removed that covered the windows and doors to the sculpture garden, as well as those that hid the breathtaking balcony, the elegant staircase and all of the various intriguing cutouts in the interior walls. This space, along with what's left of the original interior, were the work of Sudler, who brainstormed with then-director Otto Bach. Over the years, many unfortunate changes were made, the worst of which was the creation of the Hamilton Gallery. Though presently there are no plans to put the gorgeous stainless-steel torchères back in place, the DAM still has them in storage, and their mounting plates are still visible on the floor, so it wouldn't take much to do so.
With the current budget problems, other changes planned for the North Building are likely to be put off. That means that the Neusteter Textile Gallery is still in the small sixth-floor room where it's been for years, and not spread out on the seventh floor, as was planned. But despite the cramped quarters, textile curator Alice Zrebiec always comes through with something worthwhile, as evidenced by Debut.
Zrebiec's approach is adventuresome, and during the past few years she's not only acquired the expected, like the eye-dazzling nineteenth-century quilt top "Trip Around the World," by the Alexander Family of South Carolina, but also cutting-edge contemporary textiles done in the last ten years, such as "Nierika," a geometric suspension sculpture by Rebecca Medel. Also among the standouts are the mid-twentieth-century modernist pieces -- notably, an anonymous commemorative silk kerchief from 1963, "Uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto," depicting the heroic rebels (pictured), and the spectacular "Spring (Wiosna)," also from the '60s, designed by Stefan Galkowski and woven by the Wanda Cooperative in Krakow, Poland. In it, lyrical storybook figures and animals are surrounded by trees, plants and flowers.
Like everything Zrebiec does, Debut is thoughtful and beautiful. It is scheduled to stay up at least through the end of the year.
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