The Light Show at the Denver Art Museum Will Explore Physical and Symbolic Representations of Light in Art

Thought-provoking narrative showcased through nearly 250 paintings, sculptures and installations from museum collection

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) is pleased to announce The Light Show. The exhibition, featuring about 250 objects drawn from the DAM's nine curatorial departments, will focus on the quest by humanity and artists to understand physical light in the natural world as well as metaphorical, spiritual and divine representations of light. Objects from throughout the DAM's collection will be on view on levels 3 and 4 of the museum's Frederic C. Hamilton Building.

The Light Show will open in two stages. The first stage—focused on physical light—will open May 19, 2019, while the second stage, presenting symbolic light, will debut on June 2, 2019.

Lucas Samaras, Corridor #2, 1970. Mirrors on wood frame; 7 x 3.063 x 50.281 ft. Denver Art Museum: Gift of the artist in honor of Dianne Perry Vanderlip. ©Lucas Samaras, 1989.238.

"This exhibition will demonstrate how artists over time, centuries and cultures have used varied artistic representations of light," said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. "We anticipate it will appeal to multiple generations and visitors of all ages, and be an excellent opportunity to see a large range of the museum's encyclopedic art collection while the North Building undergoes a major renovation."

The cross-departmental exhibition, featuring interconnected themes of light, is co-curated by Rebecca Hart, Vicki and Kent Logan Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Jorge Rivas Pérez, Frederick and Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art. The Light Show will help visitors reflect on a variety of light-related themes through a broad range of materials and artworks, including ancient sculptures, paintings, photography, textiles and contemporary installations.

"By taking a closer look at our collections, we found a universal theme of light that we thought would help our visitors connect to art experiences in new and unexpected ways," said Hart. "Since the beginning of time, light has provoked enduring questions about the nature of existence, and we hope this will challenge visitors to think more deeply about our known and unknown surroundings."

El Anatsui (Ewe), Rain Has No Father?, 2008. Found bottle tops and copper wire; 153 x 239 in. Denver Art Museum, 2008.891. ©El Anatsui

Hart's presentation of The Light Show will include the debut of a major modern and contemporary work acquired by the DAM in 2017. The Way the Moon's in Love with the Dark by artist Fred Wilson will be on view for the first time to museum audiences in this presentation. The massive Murano glass chandelier spanning 4.5-feet wide by 6.5-feet tall was last on view at the 2017 Istanbul Biennial, where the artwork was created to challenge conventional assumptions of history. Wilson accomplished this by designing a sculpture based on incorporating Ottoman and Venetian lighting traditions, two cultures historically known to be at odds with one another.

"The exhibition also will explore and raise questions about the emblematic meanings of light and darkness, including a section about the underworld," said Rivas. "These works, which will address the topic of limited time on Earth, are a reminder of human mortality as explored through the presentation of altars, saints and deities, as well as through the subjects of spiritual, intellectual and social enlightenment."

A notable artwork that will be on view in the underworld section is Death Cart by artist José Inéz Herrera. Known as a New Mexican Santero, an artist who creates holy images, he created a skeletal figure representing death and darkness. The sculpture was previously used in Good Friday re-enactments for the Passion of Christ in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado during the 19th century as a way to remind sinners of death's eternal presence and the risks of being unprepared for this inevitable occurrence.

Childe Hassam, A Walk in the Park or Springtime in the Park, about 1900. Oil paint on canvas laid down on panel, 14-3/4 x 21-1/2 in. Frederic C. Hamilton Collection, bequeathed to the Denver Art Museum, 41.2017.

Visitors will see collection favorites such as Rain Has No Father? by renowned African artist El Anatsui. Made of found liquor bottle tops and copper wire, this artwork's shimmering qualities will shine light on issues of recycling and environmental protection. The expansive art installation Corridor #2 by Lucas Samaras, last on view in 2003, will once again give visitors the opportunity to walk through the illuminated and immersive artwork, while an impressionist artwork by Childe Hassam titled A Walk in the Park demonstrates how light can be delicately represented in landscape paintings.

The Light Show will be on view through May 3, 2020, with rotations of art taking place during the presentation. The exhibition will be included in general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and under.

Exhibition Organizers and Sponsors

The Light Show is organized by the DAM. It is presented with the generous support of the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine, CBS4, Comcast Spotlight and The Denver Post.

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About the Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum is an educational, nonprofit resource that sparks creative thinking and expression through transformative experiences with art. Its holdings reflect the city and region—and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about cultures from around the world. Metro citizens support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a unique funding source serving hundreds of metro Denver arts, culture and scientific organizations. For museum information, call 720-865-5000 or visit

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