On the hunt for contemporary art | VailDaily.com

On the hunt for contemporary art

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Denver Art Museum

If you’re having trouble getting your fill of contemporary art in Eagle County, head east. With Denver only 100 miles away, a contemporary art tour can be accomplished in a single day (and there’s plenty to keep you busy if you want to stay longer). Early April, nearly 30 people joined the Vail Symposium for a Denver art trip. Though the tour gave participants access to curators, directors and private collectors, it’s possible to do a contemporary art tour of your own, sans big wigs. And a good place to start is the Denver Art Museum’s new Hamilton Building, which opened in October.

Looking three stories down, to the entryway of the Hamilton Building, vertigo quickly takes hold. Dramatically sloping walls rim the 120-foot-high El Pomar Grand Atrium. The sharp, abnormal angles are hard for a mind accustomed to 90-degree walls. The opening of the Hamilton Building nearly doubled the Denver Art Museum galleries.

Renowned contemporary art collecters and Vail residents Kent and Vicki Logan donated art, cash and land to the Denver Art Museum worth approximately $60 million. The opening exhibit in the Anschutz Gallery, called “RADAR,” is filled with selections from the Logan’s collection. Twenty-eight terra cotta colored bodies sit in the Lotus position, hands folded on their laps, greet visitors to the “RADAR” exhibit. A hodge-podge collection of heads ” from animated characters like Ken and Tinkerbell ” hang from barely visible strings attached to the ceiling. At first people pause at the sight of the visually arresting bodies. Once they process the sight, they move forward for a closer look at the heads, chuckling as they recognize childhood friends.

The exhibit, on view through July 15, signals the museums renewed commitment to featuring current art and celebrates the Logan’s personal vision. “‘RADAR’ … highlights their uncanny ability to detect ” as if by radar ” what’s happening right now in art all over the world,” the press release reads.

“Zeroing in on the most interesting and significant artistic impulses of the last 12 years, the Logans have created a cohesive, uniquely personal, and original collection based on their beliefs about art: Art must reflect the social or cultural events of the time but also be visually arresting and contain powerful, engaging imagery.”

During the tour, curator Blake Milteer stopped the group in front of German artist Gottfried Helnwein’s “Epiphany” (“Adoration of the Magi”). In the large-scale piece that resembles a documentary black and white photograph, a Madonnaesque mother displays her baby to attentive Nazi officers. The baby’s likeness to Hitler is uncanny. Despite, or perhaps because of the distinctly sinister overtones in the piece, it’s easy to be drawn in by the piece.

“Helnwein, characteristically, presents us with an ambiguous, haunting image and leaves us to wonder about its meaning … ” reads the exhibition catalogue.

Peace as a way of life ” doesn’t that sound attractive about now, when the country is knee-deep in a war that was infinitely easier to start than it is to end? That’s the idea behind “The Peace Project,” an exhibit housed across from the under-construction Museum of Contemporary Art at 15th and Delgany in Lower Downtown. The museum is set to open in the fall but The Peace Project is on exhibit now through July 1.

The flowering, peace-loving installation comes courtesy of Miami-based artists/architects Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt. Outside the temporary contemporary building, a puffy, three-dimensional silk-flower covered peace flag waves above the entrance. Inside, a hallway leads to a curtain of plastic ribbons. Inside the room, a giant three-dimensional star, what the artists call “The Satellite of Love,” anchors the room. Tiny people stand beneath the star.

Festive Christmas tree lights and tiny banners that resemble Tibetan prayer flags are stretched across the ceiling of the room. And in this exhibit, peace has a soundtrack, namely the sound of a jet flyover alternating with the sharp bark of a dog. Round settees, large enough for 4-5 people, are scattered around the room giving visitors a place to sit and soak in the setting.

The artists are hesitant to nail down just one meaning or idea for the exhibit:

“It is a scene that may happen in another space and time; viewers may see it as occurring in another dimension. The three-dimensional star seems to have fallen or arrived from the sky, a group of people look at it and talk about it. “The Star” might be seen as an omen or presage of better times to come or perhaps an offering or ex voto that people are building as a token for peace or indeed a low tech satellite to beam out a universe of possibilities. Or it could be a daydream, mirage or apparition. “The Satellite of Love” might be the materialization in the form of a star of a desire for peace and love.”

And if you too are passionate about peace, take a moment to join the ranks of the Peace Army and don a flower-festooned helmet and shield. Photos of each army member will be displayed in the entryway of the building sometime soon.

Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

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