The new Hamilton building opened back in October of '06 to much fanfare, and a special exhibit "Radar: Selections from the Collection of Vicki & Kent Logan" which after over 8 months, finally came to an end on July 15th. I thought the show was excellent and folks in Denver were fortunate to have such a comprehensive overview of recent trends from Europe and Asia.
There are certainly many memories I have of the show and many pieces I will indeed miss seeing. I first took notice of Brad Kahlhamer's work at the companion show to Radar running briefly at the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery ("Negotiating Reality") where Kahlhamer had a large piece on display; his compelling 2001 "Giant Apache Bride" at the Radar show reminded me of something Jean-Michel Basquiat might have done had he grown up on a reservation out west.
The strong Eastern presence of the show highlighted a national trend in exhibits (and sales) from the hot Asian art market (in fact I was a little disapointed not to see any East Indian artists represented, perhaps India is off http://denverarts.org/local_news/radar_moves_on....htmlthe Logan's beaten path). Japan's Takashi Murakami's works created a kid friendly world of manga inspired cartoon characters (well, kid friendly if you could handle your kids saying "look at that ladies biiiig boobies, and look at all the milk!" as they passed by his "Hiropon.") I also was enhanted by Yoshitomo Nara's adorable (!) "Girl with the Knife in Her Hand" (1991) and will miss that droll, mischievous look on her face.
Perhaps the piece that best characterizes the show is Michael Joo's "Headless" which greeted viewers with 28 raised Buddha bodies underneath doll heads suspended from the ceiling by mono-filament and held in place by tiny magnets. As did so many of the Radar works, "Headless" pays homage to its spiritual and artistic source while humorously kicking us back to the present.
I enjoyed all of the works by the many Chinese artists on display (Fang Lijun's floating red head "980815" across from Zhang Dali's neon head and lifesized resin molds of human heads), but Zhang Huan's photographic self portraits of his masochistic exploits on blocks of ice and under animal carcasses, while smaller than most of his fellow Chinese artists works, stood out as powerful and haunting.
Gottfried Helnwein: Epiphany
German artist Neo Rauch's muted, unfinished pastiches circa 1945 create a vague sense of nostalgia for some innocent time gone by ("Spur" 1998 and "Light Rays" 1997) and luckily the DAM has one of his works on display as part of the Modern collection on the 3rd floor of the Hamilton building. Contrasting Rauch's naivete was my favorite piece in the show, Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein's "Epiphany; Adoration of the Magi," a twisted take on the Magi (Wise Men of the East) offering gifts unto baby Jesus, however the Magi are played by Nazi officers and the baby Jesus by an infant Hitler. I found the piece hypnotic and chilling: Helnwein forces us to reconsider that much of the historic religious and military imagery we have been exposed to is just as manipulative as his modern re-appropriation. [Note, both Rauch (9/20) and Helnwein (12/13) will be in Denver speaking as part of the DAM's "Artists on Art" series.]
There are however several pieces that I will NOT miss seeing: art world superstar Damien Hirst's grinning bulls head suspended in formaldehyde (how I missed the innocence of Jeff Koons nice basketballs) was conveniently located alongside Jenny Saville's disquieting obese nude seemingly covered in open wounds ("Hem" 1999) and Ron Mueck's equally distasteful hyper-realistic male nude cowering under a sweater (wait, let me guess... 'we're a society obsessed with beautiful naked people, yada yada yada, in yo' FACE mofo, how you like me NOW'; who said politically correct nudes have to be disgusting, but as artist Murakami seems to be saying, one man's meat is another's poison...)
All in all, when I look back at the opening of the new Hamilton building, I will remember the Radar show as more important to me than the shock of Libeskind's interior architectural statement ("watch out art, here I is"). Thankfully we will have the new Museum of Contemporary Art opening in October to keep an eye out for the pulse of the new while the DAM gets on with the old (Artisans and Kings: Selected Treasures from the Louvre at the Denver Art Museum).