Steina, Of the North

Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss Electronic Art at Denver Art Museum!

Denver Art Museum ends its first exhibition ever of electronic media, Blink! on May 1. The exhibition, curated by Jill Desmond, includes 55 works, 40 from the DAM collection. DAM began collecting electronic and new media art in 1982 when former curator of modern and contemporary art, Diane Vanderlip, purchased Chryssa’s “Study for the Gates, No 5.” A few years later Vanderlip was instrumental in acquiring Gary Emrich’s “Gray Zone,” the museum’s first video, and Nam June Paik’s “Electronic Fish,” its first multimedia object.

Desmond offered visitors a variety of interactive experiences and ways to engage with electronic art while sharing the breadth of the museum’s electronic art collection. Working with exhibition designer Ben Griswald, the two utilized the unique architecture of the Hamilton building to group the artworks, flowing between the immersive to the more intimate. “We interspersed the light with the heavy and didn’t want to bombard visitors with information. Even if you love all the artworks it’s still often difficult to take it all in.” The museum utilized open spaces with comfy couches where visitors could sit and spend seven or eighteen minutes to experience an entire work. A pioneer of electronic art Steina traveled up from Santa Fe to install “Of the North (special edition)” in response to the architecture of the Hamilton building.

While DAM may have come late to collecting electronic media, which began in 1965 when Sony introduced the Portapak, a portable video recording device used by Nam June Paik and Steina to explore new artistic practices, the breadth of their collection is impressive, and has been pulled together in a companion book for Blink!. Light, Sound and the Moving Image is the subtitle of the book and exhibit and explores the diverse works rarely seen from the museum’s collection. Since the Hamilton Building opened visitors have only been exposed to Bill Viola, Sylvie Fleury, Bruce Nauman and Allan Rath, while a broad selection of works remain hidden away. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait for the next big electronic art exhibit to see more of this collection. Seven weeks was a mere blink of the eye for this experience.


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