Art from the Americas

Posted 7/9/10

“I have conversations with buildings I work with,” said Jeronimo Hagerman in a conversation with curator Paola Santoscoy — the first in the …

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Art from the Americas


“I have conversations with buildings I work with,” said Jeronimo Hagerman in a conversation with curator Paola Santoscoy — the first in the Biennial of the Americas lecture series.

Their topic was “Lure of the Unknown Love or Tropical Fantasies” and addressed our inclination to long for somewhere else. Examples were a Christmas-themed amusement park in Brazil, where Christmas actually comes in the summer; examples of romanticized American landscape paintings; a Latin American hotel room with a painting of a Bavarian village… “Even if it doesn’t exist, you need it for your dreams,” said the Mexican-born artist, who lives and works in Mexico City and Barcelona, Spain.

Regarding McNichols, he said “imagine it at the end of the 19th century as a reference to a far-away culture for people who may not have left the state.”

The theme for the art in “The Nature of Things,” borrowed from a poem by the first century Roman poet Lucretius, addresses the relationship of humans to their universe and the inherent conflict that arises from different voices.

Hagerman was commissioned to create an installation called “Lime Green Corinthian over Saturn Dublin” for the entrance to the McNichols Building at Denver Civic Center, which is an arts venue for the Biennial of the Americas events. It not only includes art installations by 24 Artists from North and Latin America, but provides a stage for lectures and performances throughout the month of July. (See

Hagerman’s design for the entrance involved wrapping the tops of Corinthian columns with live tropical foliage, bringing an image of palm trees to mind, a “vegetation intervention,” he calls it, transforming the entrance into a tropical area for a social gathering, with multicolored beach chairs and swaths of hot pink cloth swooping at the top of the area. The pink fabric is inspired by bright tents at a Mexican street market and the glow from the intense color reflects inside the formal old building near the windows.

Disregarding suggestions that fake plants be used, online catalogs of plants were scanned until the right material appeared. Santoscoy said the plants he wanted were found in Florida and a watering system was installed. Hagerman said his art has evolved from photography and sculpture to installations with plants and color, which elicit a response from the people who see them. From the third floor galleries, one is at eye level with the bright green plants, an unexpectedly pleasurable interaction with nature.

Other art installations address social issues such as housing, land use, the natural and built environment. A visitor needs to seek out the wall text that accompanies each work and read it to understand the back story. For example, a shovels lined precisely on the floor of the third floor gallery, “Palas Por Pistolas” were made from melted-down guns collected from an area in Mexico with a high death rate and turned into shovels used to plant trees. Pedro Reyes’ installation, which includes videos of guns deposited in cartons, was conceived by the Botanical Garden in Culiacan and shovels were to be used to plant trees. (They will be used to plant trees in Denver while here).

A huge roll of newspapers by Columbian artist Miler Lagos is called “Silence Dogood,” a pen name Benjamin Franklin used to get early writings published, including discussion about environmental concerns.

American artist Joseph Shaeffer, who lives and works in Boulder, created “The Epoch of Encroachment,” suggestive of a scientific laboratory experiment, which addresses his idea that the natural world will eventually develop defense mechanisms and reclaim the world. It combines organic materials such as paper wasp nests with glass vessels.

On the first floor is Peruvian artist Sandra Nakamura’s “E Pluribus Unum 2010,” a coin installation including hand-placed pennies that fill the floor of a gallery space. The copper mosaic symbolizes U. S. tax dollars paid by an undocumented population across the nation.

Again, one needs to hear the story. Fortunately, the gallery is staffed with knowledgeable folks who are more than eager to talk about the works — and a visit combines well with the stimulation of lecture and performance programing.

Parking is easiest at the Cultural Center garage on 12th just west of Broadway, although there is street parking at times in this busy area.

As you walk to McNichols, look up at the colorful giant outdoor sculpture suspended between the Denver Art Museum’s North Building and the Voorhees memorial in the park.


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