From Left: Catalog for Rothko exhibition,
Punching Bag by Nick Cave.
Out and Down at DAM
Two recent shows at Denver Art Museum, Colorado
By Nicolette Reim
Sojourn by 54 year-old artist Nick Cave (June 9 – September 22, 2013) has been
called a whimsical, multisensory excursion through the artist’s
imagination that transports visitors to a magic world of color, texture,
sound and movements. Thousands of pearlescent buttons sewn on dark
cloth line a corridor holding large-scale, glittery sculptural objects -
more than 20 new sound suits accompanied by short films. The suits,
impressive, towering, take part in performances and consist of a wide
variety of materials and designed to make noise as the wearer moves.
The dance videos bring to mind Shamanism and ritual. Another room holds
the “Rescue” sculptures constructed of found junk from thrift stores
near Cave’s home town of Chicago woven into nests for ceramic dogs
sitting on elegant French settees. The art radiates out room after
room, the intention is to overwhelm, draw one into the dance. Odd
juxtapositions create a sense of comedy evoking glee from spectators.
Cave, who started as a clothes designer, insists this is a by-product of
serious intentions of his work such as history, human nature, greed and
waste and not about fun at all. He states “Art is my religion and
that’s why I have to do this.”
Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s (June 23 – September 29, 2013) is the
journey Rothko made by rejecting realism and beginning a series of
abstract works and it is considered to be the most critical decade of
his career. He is identified as a New York “Abstract Expressionist,”
although he rejected that label. His early work is playful with city
scenes and use of mythology as a commentary on contemporary life. His
late, transcendent fields of color referenced modern man’s lack of
mythological groundings. Art’s goal was to relieve man’s spiritual
emptiness. It is curious Rothko said at one point wit and play were
needed for a human element in art, although this was not pursued. He
worked toward clarity with a simple expression of complex thought. He
wanted the viewer to feel enveloped within self-contained, large format
units that draw one downward. He said those who thought of his pieces
as just color combinations were missing the point and those who weep in
front have the same religious experience he has while making them. The
poet Stanley Kunitz saw Rothko as “a primitive, a shaman who finds the
magic formula and leads people to it.” Mark Rothko died 1970 at age 66.
In the gift shop I paused at the $70
Cave sound suit punching bags next to stacks of $30 Rothko catalogues reduced to $5.
Nicolette Reim is an artist who divides her time between studios in
New York City and Atlanta.