Art Review


A few months ago, Hugo Anderson opened the Emil Nelson Gallery at 1307 Bannock Street (303-534-0996), behind the Denver Art Museum and next door to the Camera Obscura Gallery. Despite its high-profile location, the gallery has kept a low profile -- but the current show, herbert bayer remembered, is likely to correct that.

Anderson spent many years in Aspen, and that's how he came to know the late Herbert Bayer and collect his work. Bayer was a part-time Aspenite and one of the most important artists to have ever worked in Colorado. For the show, Anderson borrowed a number of things from private collections (most of which are not for sale) and from Britt Bayer, the artist's daughter-in-law.

Bayer was born in Austria in 1900 but went to Germany in the 1920s to attend the famous Bauhaus art school, where he was later a teacher. In 1938 he fled Nazi Germany and came to the United States. He moved to Aspen in 1946 and lived there part-time for decades until his death, in 1985.

The show at Emil Nelson presents examples of Bayer's work from his years in Germany, including prints from his Bauhaus period as well as paintings and photos (some of them reprints) from the 1930s, which was after he left the school but before he left Europe. These European works are mostly surrealist in style and fairly disturbing, such as 1938's "deposition." Pieces that date from Bayer's many productive years in Aspen are abundant and reveal something interesting: Living in Colorado changed the artist's aesthetic, as is demonstrated by a very Broadmoor Academy-ish 1940s abstracted landscape.

From the '50s to the '70s, Bayer embraced geometric abstraction -- or, rather, re-embraced it, as he'd done some early in his career. A signature example is "yellow rectangle" (above), an enamel on paper with collage elements from 1957.

herbert bayer remembered is chock-full of museum-quality pieces, and fortunately for us, its run has been extended. Originally scheduled to close on November 30, it's now on through December 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