Art Review

articulated wall

Herbert Bayer is probably best known in Denver for his monumental canary-yellow sculpture "articulated wall," a striking constructivist composition erected in 1985, the year he died. Located within the Denver Design Center complex at 595 South Broadway, the tower rises more than fifty feet. It has an enormous steel mast inside that is used as an armature on which stacked horizontal concrete bars have been anchored. The bars are offset so that they weave in and out and are held in place by the top member, using just the force of gravity.

The gigantic sculpture is visible not only from South Broadway, but also from I-25 and South Santa Fe Drive. However, none of these vantage points provides an ideal viewing situation, so I would like to make the immodest proposal that "articulated wall" be moved to a more prominent and appropriate location. I know exactly where that is: the Denver Art Museum -- which, by the way, owns the piece. The time is right to be thinking about the topic, because discussions are currently ongoing about placing monumental sculpture around the new Hamilton Building by Daniel Libeskind.

That it would look great with the building -- or with the Gio Ponti original -- is only one reason the sculpture belongs at the DAM. The other is the museum's Herbert Bayer Archive, a collection that includes thousands of artifacts by him. There are plans to permanently install Bayer pieces inside the new Hamilton building, so why not put one outside?

The DAM's keeper of the Bayers is curator Gwen Chanzit, the world's foremost authority on the artist. Earlier this year, Chanzit released her latest book on him, From Bauhaus to Aspen: Herbert Bayer and Modernist Design in America, published by Boulder's Johnson Books, and I unreservedly recommend it to everyone with an interest in mid-twentieth-century modernism -- especially those with a special fondness for local stuff.

Hey, I know it's unlikely that "articulated wall" will be moved to the DAM, but I had to get the idea off my chest -- especially since it initially crossed my mind twenty years ago, when the sculpture was first going up.