Art Review


The Wells Fargo Center (entrance at Sherman and 16th streets) is the masterful Philip Johnson complex downtown that's been affectionately nicknamed "the cash-register building." It is surely one of the very finest works of architecture in Denver.

Recently, CommonWealth Partners, which owns the center, has redecorated the main Sherman Street lobby -- one of the most beautiful interior spaces anywhere around. But don't worry: General manager Bill Owen, who oversaw the project, did a wonderful job. Owen explains his success in this way: "I put a big photo on the wall of Philip Johnson with a stern expression on his face," Owen says, "and underneath is the caption 'He's watching.'"

In addition to these new decorations, furniture, lighting and rugs, CommonWealth has commissioned a series of artworks. The pieces are made of glass; the choice was an inspired one, because it accents, rather than competes with, the exquisite surrounding stone.

The first of these works is a quartet of glass vessel-like sculptures, one in each of the four elevator lobbies, by Seattle artist Danny Perkins. The sculptures were done using an interesting process that involves breaking and rejoining the glass, then painting and sandblasting it.

In the multi-story atrium space above the escalators that rise from the submerged Lincoln Street lobby is a soaring, ceiling-mounted installation by Portland-area artist Ed Carpenter. The piece, "Alta Flora" (above), is made of fabric mesh, steel cables and stained-glass plates in clear, green, amber, purple and blue. As the sun shines through the glass, the colors are cast against the granite sidewall of the atrium, creating an impromptu and constantly changing "mural."

A glass sculpture by Colorado's Judy Gorsuch Collins will be installed at the new information desk.

These great-looking pieces at Wells Fargo -- and the lobby itself -- are now on permanent display. The building is open to the public during business hours.

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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