Art Review

Burns Park sculpture to have work done

Surely one of the most interesting places in Denver for fans of modern art is Burns Park, a triangle of grass and trees at the western edge of Hilltop, bounded by Colorado Boulevard, Alameda Avenue and Leetsdale Drive. What makes the park a hot spot for art enthusiasts is the group of abstract sculptures that dot it. Most of the works have been on site for decades. Sadly, they look it, with all of them appearing very run-down.

The park has an interesting history. In 1968, it was a vacant lot that was chosen by a group called Art for the Cities, mostly made up of local sculptors, that used it for the Denver Sculpture Symposium. Employing donated plywood coated with fiberglass, nine artists — Anthony Magar (his piece is pictured), Dean Fleming, Peter Forakis, Robert Mangold, Robert Morris, Richard Van Buren, Wilbert Verhelst, Roger Kotoske and Angelo Di Benedetto — created a suite of minimalist creations. The sculptures were to be removed after the symposium ended, and four of them, those by Forakis, Mangold, Morris and Van Buren, were; the others remained. In the 1990s, Fleming's piece, a skeletal cube, was demolished, and a new piece by Barbara Baer was added. In 2004, Di Benedetto's piece was re-created in concrete.

Last month, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs said it would address the condition of these sculptures, hiring JunoWorks, a Denver-based company operated by sculptor Mike Mancarella, to restore them. Interestingly, the newest piece — the one by Baer — is the most seriously damaged. It's been taken apart and is currently sitting in pieces in the yard at Ironton Studios, where JunoWorks operates. The other four are being spruced up on site with repairs and fresh coats of paint.

Rumor has it that a Magar at the Joshel House on Dahlia Street will be joining the Burns Park group, but according to DOCA's Kendall Peterson, details have not been finalized with the Joshel estate. It would be a most fitting place for it, since the late Sue Joshel commissioned the Magar after seeing the symposium.

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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

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