Yes, that's a Clyfford Still you're looking at. But it's not where you'd expect to find it hanging in Denver. From March 2 until June 8, you can take in this iconic work—part of just five percent of the abstract expressionist's total works not owned by our Clyfford Still Museum—in the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building, along with 49 other masterworks from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Upstate New York.
This Van Gogh helps Modern Masters pick up right where this winter's Passport to Parisleft off. Sobel jokes, "It seems we're starting to have a policy of always having a Van Gogh." You won't hear us complain.
This School of Paris–era work from Picasso is an insightful beginning to Modern Masters' section of Cubist art, a style Picasso would co-found just a few years after the creation of this painting.
Surrealist paintings, such as this one by Dalí, are marked by "a sense of daylight or twilight, but you're never sure which it is," says Sobel.
Willem de Kooning's "Gotham News" got its moniker quite literally—the artist was likely using newspaper to soak up oils on the painting and decided to leave a few scraps there (find them at the top middle and left side toward the bottom). Sobel suggests the energy in the painting could be a reflection on the exciting bustle of New York City in the 1950s.
You'll want to take some time with this Pollock drip painting—not just because of its sheer size, but also because of the way the masterwork engages your gaze. Says Sobel: "Your eyes are looking for a place to rest, but they never find it, so you're always actively looking at it."
The fun of seeing this Lichenstein (and Andy Warhol's "100 Cans") in person is finding the imperfections that emerge at close range. For example, in "Head—Red and Yellow," you can see pencil smudges around the woman's eyes and hairline.
Over at the CSM, archival photographs help you to more fully envision Still's retrospective more than 50 years ago. "It gives a sense of history, when you think about the eyes of people who are no longer living viewing these same works," Sobel says.
Some of the paintings in 1959, such as this large, orange-dominated canvas, hadn't "seen the light of day"—or at least been shown publicly—since the retrospective in New York.
Don't miss early findings from the CSM's 40,000-some item archive of Still's personal belongings, including correspondence about the retrospective, this photograph of Still at the original 1959 show, an interactive video that allows you to "walk," virtually, through the Albright-Knox installation, and a recording of Still reading the exhibit's catalogue introduction (which includes him calmly labeling members of the established art world "professional exploiters").
Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons at the DAM and the related 1959: The Albright Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated (running now through June 15) next door are both curated by CSM director Dean Sobel and represent the museums' first full-blown collaboration. Given Still's special relationship with the Albright-Knox—it holds the largest Still collection outside of the Mile High City, with 33 paintings—it feels serendipitous.
While Modern Masters takes a group of works out of the historic Albright-Knox for a thrilling who's-who of 20th century art—Picasso, O'Keeffe, Dalí, Kahlo, Pollock, Rothko, Lichtenstein, Warhol—1959 attempts to exhibit a group of Still's paintings as they were shown inside the Albright-Knox in that year's retrospective, which was the first Still show after he dropped out of the art world in 1951 and was curated by the irascible artist himself.
A single ticket gets you into both must-see exhibits; you can visit on separate days or run back and forth between two of Denver's best museums to your heart's delight. Trying to get the kiddos some culture? Go during spring break (March 29–April 6) for special programming like artist demos, hands-on artmaking stations, and in-gallery theater programs sure to hold their attention. Or grab a date or your girlfriends and hit up April 25th's Untitled Final Friday event "Rebel Rebel."
Can't wait? Flip through the following slideshow for a sneak peek of what you'll see and insider tidbits (e.g., Sobel calls the above Still "the one that got away") from Thursday's exclusive preview.
Bonus: Read more about Still's personal archive and the CSM Research Center here.