Art Review

American Muscle revs up at Pirate

In the 1960s, the two biggest contemporary art movements, pop art and minimalism, were ideological opposites — well, except in certain works from Andy Warhol's "Elvis" series. Pop was content-driven, riffing off everyday subject matter, while minimalism was purely about form. So it's interesting that today's post-pop and post-minimalism are often the same thing. This complex point is being simply made by emerging twenty-something artist Amanda Gordon Dunn in her impressive solo, American Muscle, at Pirate Contemporary Art (3659 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058,

The show title refers to '60s and '70s muscle cars, like big-block Dodges, Chevys and Fords. Dunn's works are hybrids of sculptures and paintings in the form of garishly toned wall relief panels that are very elegant despite the low-brow references to what some call "mullet mobiles." In truth, there are no literal references to the pride of Detroit iron in the show, other than the colors and some stripes.

Dunn says some of the pieces are actually conceptual portraits of friends, rather than literally being about cars. "For me, the muscle cars became people. The cars are very sexy," Dunn says. "I feel they have a pulse to them, especially the candy-apple colors, and so the pieces are a fusion of cars and portraits." That's why some of them have car titles, like "'67 Dodge Charger" or "'73 Nomad," while others don't, including "'77 Paco", "'80 Wilcox" and "'77 Rainbow" (pictured), the first one she created in the series.

The pieces are made of cloth that has been stretched over armatures, some constructed from plastic, others from welded metal — Dunn's day job is as a welder for Miller Interpretive Design. Though some of the pieces have accents done with automotive lacquers, all are, for the most part, in the preexisting colors of the cloths. Dunn uses different fabrics, including latex sheeting and spandex-backed four-way stretch cloth. These are materials used for fetish clothing, and Dunn came across them accidentally when she found closeout bolts at a discount store after Halloween a few years ago. They'd been marketed as material for costumes.

American Muscle runs through May 31.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia