Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Field Trip to the DAM

I'm not a huge art guy, but I like a little culture once in a while. So I went to the Denver Art Museum yesterday to see the Inspiring Impressionism exhibit with my mother-in-law.

Editor's Note: My mother-in-law is actually very, very cool. Moved here from Texas when we had our daughter a few years ago. And she's an artist herself. And she's a DAM member, so I got in free. So quit snickering.

The exhibit had a couple of works by Claude Monet, who's always been my favorite painter for no particular reason. Like I said, I'm not a huge art guy. He's my wife's favorite artist, too. Her mom says that's because impressionism is so "approachable." I think that's her way of saying that it's like the Coors Light of art movements. Thanks for shattering my carefully crafted self-view of being somewhat cultured, Nana.

The exhibit was pretty neat. I liked the concept of showing impressionist paintings next to earlier works that may have inspired them. That provided some nice context.

After we were done with that exhibit we went and checked out the rest of the museum's new building. There were some things I liked, such as a painting of aspens from the Herbert Bayer collection on the lower level. On the one hand it must be pretty cool to have an entire museum collection of your works. On the other, it must say something when they put it in the basement.

There was also a piece of art by a guy named Robert Irwin that was pretty interesting. The best thing to call it would probably be a sculpture, except it wasn't just the physical piece itself that made it art. It was hung and lighted in such a way that it cast some really intriguing shadows that were part of the work. The museum labeled it as using acrylic for the medium. I thought they should have said acrylic and light. Maybe that's why I'm not a curator.

There were, of course, some things that I just couldn't relate to. Like a piece titled something like "Large Red Slab" that was -- you guessed it -- a large, red slab. And some sort of video that included sound effects and dialogue from Star Trek with footage of the artist, a young kid and some old guy on a moonscape set. The old guy was lip synching to a female voice. The whole thing reminded me of a Sprockets skit. I guess these would be like the Achel Trappist Extras of the art world.

The lesson, if any, is probably that art is subjective. There's nothing wrong with working that part of your brain once in a while and wrestling with what makes something "good" or "bad." The exercise has value regardless of your conclusion. Unless, of course, it makes you miss the UEFA Champions League final...

Yes, I'm still bitter about that.


Danh said...

Me and my girlfriend were just talking about you tonight! I hope you keep this blog up and going, it is a great way to keep everybody up to speed with you. I hope you will get to do all the things you want to do outside of the office and when you head back to Texas, let me know.

SteveHarbula said...

Thanks for checking in, AO! Seriously, though -- you and your girlfriend need to find better stuff to talk about. ;)

When I find myself back in the Lone Star State I'll let you know. At the latest, it should be Austin next March for SXSW.