In 2006, I commissioned four site specific artworks to be installed before the completion of the new museum. Following my interest in creating an architecture that supported rather than defined the institution, these artworks generated experiential, quite disruptions and insertions to the architectural program. The building site, a Golden Rectangle, was integral to many conversations I had about art, architecture and the social conditions of contemporary art museums with artists and architect David Adjaye. The building and the permanent artworks would come to reflect some of the ancient principles of this condition. With an ongoing commitment to regional artists three of the four commissions were from Colorado: Clark Richert, Karla Dakin and Kim Dickey. The fourth commission represented the first public work in the US by British artists Tim Noble & Sue Webster. The resulting works react to the building, its site condition and mathematical golden section, and to the atmospherics of the museum’s social and artistic spaces.
Clark Richert designed a multi-layered, geometric composition incised as a site specific work along the south side of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver's building. This digital conception reflects the 23-by-107-foot work, titled Riemannian Tangencies. According to Richert it offers "A lyrical movement reflecting the activities for which the Museum was created.” Riemannian Tangencies (2007) is a direct response to the architecture and ground site of the building. The final work is an mathematical acid-etched pattern burned into concrete based on the Richert Penrose tile, a five-fold symmetry of non-repeating patterns, named after the artist.
In situ, Kim Dickey’s six glazed terracotta sculptures, abstractions of plant forms—petals, leaves, fruit, stems—dialogue with the garden project by landscape architect Karla Dakin. Inspired by the 360 degree horizon view, Dickey’s low dense mounds ground the visual plane. Museum as Garden as Theater mirrors Dakin’s exterior garden plant selection with many native plants species that are often tightly bound. The viewer is directed to consider the engagement between these interior and exterior subjects, nature and art, atmospheric and social reactions. The sculptures concertized the landscape within a public space. Here, Dickey sets up a theatrical composition where viewership, art and nature coexist in the same dialogic field.
The idea of a garden came forward in my earliest conceptualization for the program of the MCA building. A garden offered a place to return to nature, to reflect on the artworks within the galleries and a site of potential dialogue about art as it relates to the world at large. Combining her knowledge of native plants and controlled environments, landscape architect received her first green roof top garden commission. Karla Dakin's Sky Trapezium is an example of green roof building, a low impact landscape design situated within an urban environment. It has become a global model for Dakin and other landscape architects. Sky Trapezium has five steel beds, mirroring the five main galleries, several of which float skyward.
The first public art in the US of Tim Noble & Sue Webster used neon and flashing light to direct us toward what we desire like a divine beacon. Toxic Schizophrenia (Hyper Version), a pierced heart sculptural emblem, was a curatorial site-specific commission conceived to connect the museum building’s façade with its interior function of presenting contemporary art. “The concept of the emblem is central to art: An emblem that can represent faith and fidelity, love as well as hate, fear as well as resolution, understanding and ignorance, sophistication and vulgarity, waste and value, friendship and alienation, male and female, negative and positive. In other words, an endless string of opposites that can tear the world apart or hold it together.” Excerpt from Norman Rosenthal’s essay "The Magic Acts of Noble & Webster" from the catalogue Wasted Youth.