Art Review

Review: Derrick Velasquez Builds on a Theme in MCA's Obstructed View

“XXXXXXXXXXX L (hole),” by Derrick Velasquez.
“XXXXXXXXXXX L (hole),” by Derrick Velasquez. Derrick Velasquez
Among this summer’s attractions at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver is Derrick Velasquez: Obstructed View, a solo curated by Zoe Larkins. The show represents a followup to Velasquez’s 2015 Black Cube project that was reiterated in 2016, a tower made of common construction materials and readily available trim pieces. Although it was internally lit, that tower was meant to be viewed from the exterior; the works at the MCA deal with interior features of buildings.

Obstructed View begins with “XXXXXXXXXXX L (hole),” which is sited in such a way that it cannot be seen unless a viewer is right up against the museum’s atrium railings and looks down. Velasquez has outlined the opening with courses of crown moldings slotted into each other so that they step down toward the center; the moldings are all based on traditional motifs like the “egg and dart” and the “urn and swag.” Joined in the corners and painted metallic gold, the entire piece looks like a gaudy gilt picture frame. But what you see when you look into the middle is not a picture, but a black floor a story below. Velasquez notes that the work reflects his research into Versailles as well as his more recent interest in Donald Trump’s New York penthouse. Despite the Versailles reference, the piece more effectively conveys the pretentious insincerity of Trump’s idea of elegance.

click to enlarge Derrick Velasquez installation view. - DERRICK VELASQUEZ
Derrick Velasquez installation view.
Derrick Velasquez
The downstairs is dominated by an installation titled “Don’t Give Up the Ship” that comprises a series of cabinets made of Baltic birch plywood mounted on big casters and arranged in a zigzag. The aesthetic is homogenized modernism, like the stuff at Ikea, and it’s a clear contrast to the phony traditionalism of the atrium piece. Velasquez has accented the cabinets with small objects such as fake plants, vintage panes of privacy glass in frames and, most important, a series of concrete sculptures on walnut bases; the volumetric forms of these sculptures were inspired by the artist’s studies of Trump’s real estate holdings. Regardless of whether they are parodies of modernism or examples of neo-modernism, though, these sculptures could have a future on their own.

Among the other pieces in the show are a series of photos of property lines in Highland, with an old house on one side and a new one on the other. Also noteworthy is the fake structural pillar Velasquez has installed near the bottom of the staircase that actually makes the whole space work better.

Obstructed View runs through August 27 at MCA Denver,1485 Delgany Street; call 303-298-7554 or go to for additional information.
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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