Art Review


One of the new sculptures in the Civic Center has made quite a splash, winding up on the front page of the Denver Post even before it was unveiled. The untitled sculpture, by nationally famous artist Larry Kirkland, is one of several new pieces adorning the new, nearly completed Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building.

To be honest, the Kirkland sculpture is fast becoming the most reviled object in the city; I can't believe how many people have called me to complain about it. So I'm reluctant to admit the truth: I like it.

The sculpture stands at the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Cleveland Place. It's constructed of gray and white marble bars that have been stacked and computer-cut to form the image of a head with two profiles -- one facing west, the other east. There is a space cut out in the center in which a plumb bob is hung. The pointed weight is finished with a shiny gold patina; the sculpture itself sits on a dark granite base at the center of a granite-and-concrete pattern that covers the plaza.

That entry plaza, designed by Kirkland and the building's architects, David Owen Tryba and RNL, is over the top. The paving is emphatic, decorated with banded markings that represent the fortieth parallel. This line is accented by others of dark granite that have been reverse-etched with details from a map of Denver.

Considering how things work in this city, there may be a time in just a decade or so when support will be needed to preserve the plaza. I predict it will be a Skyline Park of the future.

The publicity surrounding the sculpture was not positive. The piece made the news because it apparently violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. The problem is that the proboscises -- the noses -- on the Janus-faced bust are only five feet off the ground and thus would present a hazard to those pedestrians with sight limitations. The solution is to raise the piece farther off the ground.

The Kirkland sculpture -- which is behind a fence for the time being -- is visible from the Civic Center.

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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