Art

The Best New Public Art in Denver in 2018...and Through the Decade

The Best New Public Art in Denver in 2018...and Through the Decade
Marvin Anani
Denver's public-art program — which requires that 1 percent of all capital-improvement projects over $1 million undertaken by the city go to public art — turns thirty this year. Over the past three decades, that program has been responsible for placing an amazing collection of artworks around the Mile High City. None have been as controversial as "Mustang," our Best Public Art honoree in the Best of Denver 2008, but over the past decade, a few other winners have had their own neighsayers. Still, they all continue to make the Denver landscape a lot more interesting. Here are the past ten winners (with the descriptions that accompanied their awards), concluding with the Best Public Art in 2018, a second win for the artist:

2009
"National Velvet," John McEnroe
Millennium Bridge
Like "Mustang" at DIA, John McEnroe's "National Velvet" has elicited a lot of public comment. But here the jokes have been accompanied by sniggers and smirks rather than shock and awe. Some have suggested that the piece, a contemporary take on an obelisk cast from piled-up sandbags — in the Platte River floodplain, no less — suggests either a penis or a stack of breasts. What really makes this sculpture fun, though, is the way McEnroe parodies traditional monumental sculpture by placing a glow-in-the-dark red plastic spire in the middle of an old-fashioned-looking town square.





2010
"Un Corrido Para la Gente," Carlos Frésquez
Westwood

Carlos Frésquez was part of this city's burgeoning Chicano artists' movement of the '70s and '80s, creating works that specifically referred to the Mexican-American experience. In the '90s, he started to conflate the dreams of Aztlán with postmodernism, and his paintings grew into installations, setting the stage for his latest triumph, "Un Corrido Para la Gente." This funky piece, the title of which means "A Ballad for the People," consists of a giant guitar, a huge bicycle wheel topped by a crown, and a string of papel picado banners running between the guitar and a monumental shovel handle. Installed this past year at the intersection of Morrison Road and Sheridan Boulevard, it serves as an entry marker to the Westwood neighborhood, and its imagery fits the surrounding Mercado district like a glove.

click to enlarge DENVER ARTS & VENUES
Denver Arts & Venues
2011
"The Red Forest," Konstantin Dimopoulos
Millennium Bridge

"The Red Forest" sprouted up last year near the west steps of the Millennium Bridge in the Platte Valley, adding another exemplary piece of public art to Denver's collection. Using synthetic rods colored red, Egypt-born Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos mounted clusters that look like clumps of reeds to create "The Red Forest." When the air is still, the clustered rods soar above our heads, but when the wind kicks up, they sway and move. Since spotlights are an integral feature, the view also changes drastically at night, when the red rods catch the rays in such a way that they seem internally lit. The work, funded by the Riverfront Park Community Foundation, was selected by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, and in this case, DOCA made an illuminating choice.

click to enlarge DENVER ART MUSEUM
Denver Art Museum
2012
"For Jennifer," Joel Shapiro
Denver Art Museum

Though it appears to be on the front lawn of the new Clyfford Still Museum, "For Jennifer" is actually on land owned by the Denver Art Museum, which also owns the fabulous Joel Shapiro sculpture. A signature Shapiro, the 32-foot-tall, dazzling blue piece is a cross between minimalism and representation, with the rectilinear metal bars economically brought together in such a way as to suggest a woman dancing. And that woman is the late Jennifer Moulton, the planning director during Wellington Webb's administration who envisioned the Civic Center Cultural Complex. Moulton never saw her vision come to fruition; she died in 2003, before the DAM's Hamilton Building had been built and before the History Colorado museum and the Clyfford Still had even been conceived. But it's fitting to have an ad hoc memorial to her located in the middle of it all. And a stunning memorial it is.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.