I love salon-style museums, the ones where they mix things together and trust the viewers to draw their own connections. When a salon-style museum is in a historic building that is still full of the owner’s furnishings? That’s the best ever.
And thus, Denver’s Kirkland Museum is THE BEST EVER. Yup, deserving of all caps.
Vance Kirkland was a 20th century painter (and faculty at the University of Denver). He went through more than a few distinct styles in his lifetime but the thing he’s most known for are his dot paintings which are total mid century science fiction madness. If you see these things you don’t forget them.
The museum is comprised mostly of his stuff … and what great stuff it is. There are lots of paintings from him and his fellow faculty, but also tons of really inventive ceramics and other housewares, furniture of all kinds, and even a fantastic collection of old radios. And there are lots of enamels, so I was in heaven.
The one thing that really put this over the top was the re-creation of his studio. Although Kirkland’s paintings weren’t large, he needed to be very exacting in his dot placement. Now most painters stick the work on a wall, and if they have trouble reaching a spot they go and get a ladder. Not Kirkland. In order to keep his dots exact and precise he suspended himself above his work and moved it around with a cane and skateboard. Anyone who has done pointillism knows that the secret is in controlling your movements so that every dot comes in at exactly 90 degrees … and by keeping his body still and moving the work I suspect that he was able to achieve tremendous precision and control.
It has to be seen to be believed. The Kirkland Museum is both a wonderful celebration of Colorado art (something that is not celebrated enough) and an excellent collection of decorative art, worthy of an international reputation. Historically, Denver has not been known as an arts destination but because of museums like the Kirkland, I feel that that is about to change.