Also relatively new in Aspen is its art museum. It now occupies the corner where the venerable Wienerstube Restaurant used to be at 637 East Hyman. Because it’s free, Ruth & I have visited the Aspen Art Museum twice. I expected to write about it after our first visit but just couldn’t for some reason. Reviewing yesterday’s blog, I decided it’s time to comment on it.
First of all, it’s kind of shocking that it’s even there. A big city art museum in a town of fewer than 7,000 residents, many of whom live there only part-time, is kind of amazing. It was created by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and made a lot more sense after I read that he is trying to duplicate the skiing experience in his design. My favorite spaces are the grand staircase, the public rooftop restaurant, and the glass elevator. The restaurant, SO, is named for a typical Japanese brushstroke and seems to have caught on. It’s a busy place that is used for a lot more than dining. Movies, meetings, and music events are regular museum features. What I don’t especially like about it are its exterior blocky weave design, the lowest level, and the unimaginative display spaces. The building seems too big for a small, mountain town despite the sizes of many of its homes. The lowest level is dark and plain. The display spaces are traditional and filled with temporary contemporary art that is, in my opinion, too similar.
Our first visit included a display of spirit photography and featured the flamboyant art of Chris Ofili. The idea behind spirit photography is, at least, interesting. When photography became more common, some like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed that it was possible to sometimes capture the spirits of the deceased on camera. Born in England but living in Trinidad, Ofili’s output is inspired by hip hop, Blaxploitation films, etc. I had several interesting discussions with the young staff who was around the artist’s images all day and had developed deeper understanding than I could in mere minutes. Ruth was in and out in five minutes while I lingered to talk. Both exhibits are long gone and probably part of the reason why I waited for a year to write about this museum.
In summer 2016, Ruth & I both admired Lynda Benglis’ Pink Ladies on the roof Deck Sculpture Garden. See them above. They are now gone too. Still in the museum until December 18 is the art of Gabriel Orozco that we did see. A Mexican artist that the Aspen Art Museum calls “critically acclaimed,” most of the examples of his work did show Orozco’s interest in geometry.
This museum’s curators seem totally focussed on contemporary artists. This is not criticism but it does cause a sort-of-sameness to what I and others see as we breeze through the Aspen Art Museum. A bit more diversity might cause longer and more thoughtful visits.