Art Review


With blockbusters sweeping in and out of the main-floor galleries at the Denver Art Museum (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000), it's easy to forget that there are many fine smaller shows upstairs (see review, previous page).

A compelling example can be found on the fifth floor, which is devoted to Oriental art. In a small side room within the Shwayder Galleries is China Meets the American Southwest: Pottery Designs and Traditions. The amazing thing highlighted in this show is that even though there is no actual, historical connection between China and the American Southwest, the forms of the Chinese vessels and their decorative motifs are very similar to those of the Indian ones. Even the colors -- earthy tones of red, brown, black and beige -- link the two pottery traditions.

In fact, they are so similar, it would be hard for anyone but an expert to distinguish one from the other (in the photo above, the American Southwest pot is on the left). There's even a showcase in which there are no identifying tags, leaving viewers to guess what came from where. A hidden identification guide reveals the correct answers.

The show was put together jointly by Ron Otsuka, the DAM's curator of Asian art, and Nancy Blomberg, its curator of native arts. The Chinese pottery is out of the privately owned Sze Hong Collection, on loan to the DAM; the American Indian pieces come from the museum's own collection.

This intriguing exhibit will continue through mid-March 2002.

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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