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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

clyfford still museum

exterior showing striated texture

my favorite

on sunday, my husband and i went to the clyfford still museum ( in downtown denver.  in his later life, still chose not to exhibit his work, so it turns out that 94 percent of what he created is housed in this museum.  they have to rotate the work, as there is not display space for all of it at once.

still painted giant canvases, with abstract forms and highly expressive brush stroke.  the museum literature says that still was the first of his contemporaries (including jackson pollock, mark rothko, helen frankenthaler, willem de kooning, and philip guston to name a few) who changed from representational work to abstraction.  for still, this happened between 1938 and 1942.  

the exhibits are set up in a sort of time line, with earlier work first.  i can't say that i really enjoyed his early paintings.  early pieces were landscapes and figures, and felt very WPA in style to me.  i appreciated the pieces, but they did make me feel a bit sad.  still was painting the things in his environment, which included farmers and laborers during the depression.  

what i can say, is that i was blown away as i moved toward the larger abstract paintings in the exhibit space.  i loved the jagged shapes, seemingly moving vertically in the space.  i also really liked the fact that many of the paintings showed bare canvas in spots.  always one for surface, it gave the paintings one more layer of interest. the matte finish of the paint also spoke to me.  

i didn't know much about still before his museum was slated to come to denver.  while the museum was under construction, the denver art museum did a sort of "teaser" in their space, showing a few paintings and some information about still.  i never remember studying still along with the other abstract expressionists in college.  but i am glad i have learned about his work, and feel incredibly lucky that i can now see the collection so conveniently.

one more note is that the building itself is worth seeing by itself.  the interior and exterior are concrete.  i think i read it was poured and textured in place.  wooden slats were used as the framework, and spaces were left to let the concrete ooze out, creating three dimensional striations inside and outside of the building.  a very interesting surface to discover.  i also thought the ceilings were amazing--also of concrete, but this time almost "cellular" looking.  there is a honeycomb of oval holes above you, letting in the denver sunshine at a distinct angle.  

the ceiling!

i will definitely be back!!

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