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Critter creations fill ‘Stampede’ exhibit at art museum

Curators chose animal figures for show during shutdown of North Building


When it was time to close down the Denver Art Museum’s 50-year-old North (Gio Ponti) Building for an update, curators from all departments were asked to select an assortment of animals, as portrayed by artists ancient and modern — creatures mythical and realistic — in two and three dimensions: sculptures, paintings, textiles, ceramics. Objects range from ancient fierce dragon-like temple guards to Deborah Butterfield’s relaxed recent bronze life-sized horses — and all sorts of wondrous critters in between.

These were to be combined into a large exhibit called “Stampede,” filling both the third and fourth floors at the more recently constructed Hamilton Building.

In addition to delivering an astonishing assortment of creeping, flying, walking, swimming and just plain magical creatures, a sense of humor emerged. The resulting well-organized display is a delight for children and adults.

Objects are divided into categories; Horses, Tales de Fabulas, Posters, Domesticated, Sacred, Elemental, Transformed ...

The Horses category, for example, includes a group of three Butterfield horses that are especially popular with kids, according to Highlands Ranch docent Gene Neiges.

Families can make up a game up — “how many cats can you see?” — for instance. Neiges mentions an elusive one hidden in a “Whistler’s Mother” type of painting, which includes an image of a small painting on the wall depicting said feline. Another entertaining image is Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting of a cow, with head turned up and tongue sticking waay out. And, don’t miss Wenling Chen’s hilarious fiberglass procession, “Riding to Happiness (with 56 little pigs)!”

Images can range from an ancient ceramic Mexican “Standing Dog, Comala Style,” dated @ 300 B.C.-A.D. 300 and standing 10 inches tall to Kiki Smith’s fanciful near-life-sized “Genevieve and the May Wolf” to Joe Andoe’s huge, in-your-face painting, “Untitled. Horse in Landscape,” which greets one entering the exhibit. The Horses area also includes Chinese artist Xu Beliong’s ink on paper rendition of a horse — and a life-sized mounted Indian with beaded saddle.

Back to the whimsical, one smiles upon finding a piece purchased for the DAM from the delightful Nick Cave exhibit: “Untitled” (2013), with a rotund furry creature riding a teeter-totter. And Peter Gugger’s “Dog Barking at Two Women,” from the textile collection that has appeared around town on posters — and Elliot Erwitt’s photograph, “New York City 1974,” with a small dog on a leash and wearing a hat — and only the legs of its owners shown.

A compelling one-minute film of a polar bear swimming is included in the “Elemental” collection, while Rick Barlow’s large painting in “Transformed” is called “Masquerade.” Under “Domesticated,” a visitor will find Robert Motherwell’s “Angus,” multiple black cattle spotted in a field, a Medieval procession that includes unicorns, a Mexican Colonial family with pets, the aforementioned O’Keeffe painting and a crude wooden ox cart. The variety seems endless and surely include items not previously displayed along with often-shown favorites.

Plan to spend a leisurely couple hours or more of discovery. Include with general admission.


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