Art Review


I ran into John Grant from the city's Office of Cultural Affairs last month, and he told me he was going to prove me wrong about the Performing Arts Sculpture Park on Speer Boulevard next to the Colorado Convention Center. He was referring to what I had written when Jonathan Borofsky's "Dancers" was installed. I'd said that the two gigantic figures took up so much room that the park could not fit in any additional sculptures.

Right now there are a lot of additional sculptures in the park; they're part of Bernar Venet, a traveling show that's installed there, at the Gates Sculpture Triangle near the Millennium Bridge and in select locations around downtown. The exhibit began traveling the world in 1993; its Denver stop is sponsored by the NBT Charitable Trust. The show is especially relevant because Denver recently acquired a major Venet, "Indeterminate Line," situated just a block away from and within sight of the part of the show installed at the park. Venet's signature is looping, airy, abstract steel forms that are both linear and organic -- a wonderful balancing act.

I don't need to answer Grant directly about how well the park works; the exhibit provides overwhelming evidence that I was right all along. The Venets (above) are gorgeous, but they look ridiculous in the shadow of the idiotic "Dancers" -- like tumbleweeds blowing around their feet.

Venet, who was born in France but has lived in New York for decades, is transitioning from being an established artist to becoming a genuinely famous one. Why, just a couple of weeks ago, Andy Rooney lampooned his work on 60 Minutes in one of those patented "don't-you-just-hate-it-when" rants. His complaint had to do with his antipathy to contemporary sculpture in public places. A group of Venets was installed on New York's Park Avenue this past summer, and that's how the artist wound up in Rooney's crosshairs.

The Bernar Venet show runs through August 31, but "Indeterminate Line" will be on display permanently.

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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