'Modern Masters'

Iconic 20th century art on display

Modern Masters come to Denver Art Museum


Chagall, Dali, Gaugin, Kahlo, Lichtenstein, Matisse, Miro, Picasso, Pollack, Stella, Still, Warhol, and more are there — each representing the major developments in modern art from the late 19 century to the present.

The Denver Art Museum is proud to display works by more than 40 artists in an exhibit called “Modern Masters: 20 Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery,” exhibited through June 8. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo is home to one of the finest collections of 20 century art in the nation and has loaned many of its works to the Denver Art Museum for the exhibit.

Dean Sobel, director of the Clyfford Still Museum (located next door to the DAM at 12 and Bannock), has curated this important exhibit.

Sobel's connection: Still had a major exhibit at the Albright-Knox in 1959 — the largest in his career. He subsequently donated 31 works to that institution — and the Still Museum offers a related show, “1959,” with works that were included in that show. A combined timed and dated ticket is offered for both museums.

As one enters the second level galleries in the Hamilton Building, a series of large illuminated photos of these intense artists at work sets the scene.

Works in subsequent galleries are generally arranged chronologically, starting with the School of Paris, where one finds Gaugin's famous, brooding “Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892” and Chagall's happy “La vie Paysanne (Peasant Life).”

Interpretive stations are spaced through the exhibit, including one on the power of color, with quotations from Kandinsky. Silhouetted against the end wall of the first gallery is one of Giacometti's gaunt sculptural figures, leading one through to the next gallery which features Cubism (Leger), Surrealism (Dali, Miro) and American Modernists (Kahlo, O'Keefe), leading to a collection of Abstract Expressionists in the following space, with major artists represented.

“Convergence,” a huge 93.5 x 155 inch canvas by Jackson Pollack dominates. Sobel, in a preliminary press tour, pointed out how one could follow the artist's path as he poured and dripped paint on the work. “It shows the presence of an artist at work —timelessness, a microcosm of a larger universe” he commented.

A nice addition was a display of Pollack's cans, tools and a turkey baster he used to direct paint, as well as a pair of paint-spattered boot belonging to his wife, Lee Krasner.

Sobel commented, midway through his tour: “How well these walls and these rooms support these paintings.”

Included in the Abstract Expressionist collection: a large black and yellow by Clyfford Still: “1957-D no. 1, 1957” from the Albright-Knox. “Probably his most famous,” Sobel said.

Also included: works by Francis, Rothko, Kline, Diebenkorn, Frankenthaler, Martin … The list goes on.

Next, the visitor finds Pop Art, with Lichtenstein, who famously said, “Reproduction was really the subject of my work.” There's also an early Andy Warhol: “100 (soup) Cans, 1962.” This one was done when the artist was working in a loft, doing all the work himself on his multiple images. After 1963, others in his studio did repetitions.

Sobel said the Albright-Knox curators selected the works exhibited in this show and he arranged the display at Denver Art Museum and the related one at the Still Museum, which includes material from the extensive archives, such as a tape of the artist, speaking at the opening of his 1959 Buffalo exhibit, wherein he addressed his conflicts with the art world.

The Denver Art Museum is located on 12 Ave., between Broadway and Bannock. The Clyfford Still Museum is directly west at 1250 Bannock St. A combined timed ticket is available for both exhibits. (A visitor may keep the ticket to use on a later day at the Still.) Tickets: $20/$18/$16 non-members/$10 members: DenverArtMuseum.org or 720-913-0130. Both institutions offer related programs, ranging from Nooner tours to in-depth lectures.


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