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From Left: Catalog for Rothko exhibition, 

SoundSuit 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.”


Figure to 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.

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