5.14.2015

Rocky Mountain High, Part 2

Rocky Mountain High, Part 1: Space Gallery

Still Life
You can't visit Denver without paying a visit to the Clyfford Still Museum. Opened in late 2011, it houses virtually all of the artist's work. Having famously withdrawn from the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951, Still hoarded his work, stipulating in his will that the entire oeuvre be shown together. His wife, Patricia Still, and the city of Denver made that happen. And the oeuvre--with many of the canvases yet to be unrolled--is now housed in the recently built museum, along with artifacts, documents, and a full-time conservation staff. You can read more about the museum here, so let me show you a few pictures of the work set into its new home.


You can't see from this picture, but the roof lets in a lot of light

You walk up a flight of stairs to get to the galleries, greeted by a self portrait of the artist and some of his early work
Same wall, opposite view

What's interesting in Still's early work is the hint of what was to come. Look at that fractured sky on this painting , which is set into the  installation above

Here's another . . .



. . . which is seen in the distance on the wall at the top of the stairs

These paintings depict farmland scenes from his home state of North Dakota, as well as farther north in Alberta, Canada, where he also spent time growing up

After a few rooms of early paintings, we enter a number of large galleries with the artist's recognizable work. I hadn't intended to blog about the museum, so I'm not showing you the galleries in order. I'm showing these two first because I happen to like them enormously



Everything about the museum is well designed, from the perforated ceiling that lets in filtered natural light to the benches that look like concrete but are actually compressed felt. The paintings are not crowded, and the sight lines are good



The gallery shown above, in panorama, leads into the one shown below, also in panorama. The curators seem rather enamored of the red-yellow-blue combination





This painting and several others, with vast areas of white on a linen ground, seem to harken back to Still's early fractured skies. Downstairs in one of the vitrines, I found a statement of this work (image below). I'm not giving you titles, because they appear to be archive numbers rather than names


Click pic to make it legible



That color combination again
Also, it appears the curators gave into the drama of sight lines, so while the red painting you see in the distance here, looks wonderful in relation to the works in the gallery . . . 


. . . the fact is that you can't actually step back to view it, as a glass railing is barely five feet away



A small hallway on the first floor leads to the conservation department, which was closed when I was there. However the vitrines in the hallway were full of great things, like the artist's paint box, above, and some of the palette knives he used on his paintings, below


Still seems to have been a prolific letter writer. There are many handwritten and typed documents shown in the vitrine. The one above is a letter to Rothko
(On a PC, click pics to make them legible; on a Mac press command and the plus key to enlarge the screen)

In the letter below, written in late 1973, Still explains why he wished to stop showing.  Though each painting is "complete in itself," he writes, he wanted his oeuvre to remain together. "My work represents a conception of art as a life--an entire life."  I'd say Still was luckier than most in being able to have that dream realized



One thing I learned is that the installation was to be changed the week after my visit. There are many paintings, and part of the museum's mission is to show them all over time. So by the time you read this post, the installation is likely to have changed. That's certainly a good reason to go back.
. . . . . .


High Life
If the Still Museum is a must-see in Denver, so is a pilgrimage to the green cross. In a state where both recreational and medical marijuana are legal, the green cross indicates a dispensary.


At the sign of the cross: weed


Yes, I went. Yes, I bought. And let me tell you, this is not the head shop of your youth. For one thing, there's actual weed there. I went with friends, and we all had a lot of questions: How does the vape pen work? (It's an e-cig whose vapor contains essence of cannabis without the smoke.) How strong are the candies? (It varies; surprise!) What's better: sativa or indica? (Depends on whether you want to function or go into what they call "couch lock.")

The young attendants looked at us with amusement, as if they'd invented the cannabis experience, but they were well informed. I got a nickel bag for about $20, not bad considering inflation, two vape pens, and some lemon drops. Cash only. Total for the haul: $90. Yes, it's technically illegal to transport it out of state, but no alarms sound when you go through security. I believe the sniffer dogs are on duty for the flights from Columbia, not for middle-age folks traveling domestically with a few lemon drops wrapped in Kleenex.

2 comments:

Nancy Natale said...

Great post! Left me larffing!

I know that Rothko and Still were great pals for a while and introduced each other's work across the country, but they had a falling out and stopped speaking. Too bad because they seem to have spoken the same language.

I never liked Still's work much because of those jagged peaks and edges, but it does look very impressive in the museum setting. The red/yellow/blue thing is strange. I'd be interested to see if they keep it up with every installation.

Thanks for posting!

Sue Marrazzo said...

cool! Thanks for the sharing = )