Art Review

MCA Denver brings an associate curator on board

Since MCA Denver was founded in the late 1990s, its directors have simultaneously served as curators for its exhibits. There have been guest curators — Julie Segraves, John Grant and Petra Sertic come to mind — but no one permanent. For most of the museum's history, former director Cydney Payton did it all.

That changed with the appointment of Payton's successor, Adam Lerner. Last March, in order to put together his first full slate of shows — collectively titled Looking for the Face I Had Before the World Was Made, the six-artist effort opened at the end of January — Lerner brought on an adjunct curator, Nora Burnett Abrams, in August, though the move was never made public. Abrams initially worked long-distance from her home in New York City, but she relocated to Denver at the beginning of this year to join her husband, Brian Abrams. Then, a couple of weeks ago, the MCA made a formal announcement that Ms. Abrams would be joining the staff as associate curator, a first for the institution.

Abrams has a distinguished academic background, with a bachelor's degree from Stanford University and a master's from Columbia University. She is currently working on a Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts; her dissertation subject is British artist Rachel Whiteread. She also briefly taught art history at New York University and has worked on exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Robert Rauschenberg: Combines) and the Museum of Modern Art (Matisse Picasso).

Although I have yet to meet Abrams, I was not surprised that the MCA was going to make this move, as word was out that the museum was looking for a curator to help Lerner, whose specialty is art education and not exhibition practice.

According to the announcement, Abrams is working on two future MCA shows: a solo featuring the work of Isca Greenfield-Sanders from New York, scheduled for this coming fall; and one given over to San Antonio's Dario Robleto, for next winter. Greenfield-Sanders is a digital artist, while Robleto works in mixed media. Hopefully, Abrams will get to know some of Colorado's worthy artists, too, and put together exhibits that highlight their efforts.

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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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