"National Velvet," John McEnroe
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.
"Un Corrido Para la Gente," Carlos Frésquez
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.
"The Red Forest," Konstantin Dimopoulos
"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.
"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.