Editor's note: Beverly Pepper died February 5, 2020.
It’s hard to miss these two looming figures at the Denver Art Museum. What else not to miss: sculptor Beverly Pepper was in her 80s when she completed them.
With work located all around the world, she was one of the foremost sculptors of the last decade.
In 2012, DAM conservator Kate Moomaw undertook the important task of treating the Denver Monoliths when it began to show signs of cracking and discoloration due to Colorado's extreme weather. Six years after its installation in 2006, Denver Monoliths was washed, repainted, and resealed this summer. Contemporary art conservators constantly are researching new materials and methods to keep our favorite artworks alive and well.
Museum Board Trustees Jana Bartlit and Fred Bartlit commissioned Denver Monoliths specifically for placement in front of the DAM's Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Building. The sculpture, located on a triangle of grass, is sited on the museum’s exterior public plaza directly in front of the main entry of the Hamilton Building.
In the 1970s, Pepper developed a growing interest in monumentality that continued throughout her career. During this time she began to focus on mass as expressed through physically dynamic, geometric planes. This interest led to the conception of Earthbound Sculptures, works that seem to emerge or rise up from the earth. Because they were incorporated into their environments, Pepper’s colossal Earthbound Sculptures took on an architectural quality. To accomplish this effect, she sought new materials, tools, and techniques. Such is the case with Denver Monoliths. Comprised of two massive vertical elements—measuring 42 feet tall and 31 feet tall, and weighing a total of 155,000 pounds—the work was made utilizing new stone casting technologies and modeling techniques developed by the artist.
Image credits: Beverly Pepper, Denver Monoliths, 2005-2006. Composite cementituous material. Before treatment, 2012. Denver Art Museum Collection: Funds from Jana and Fred Bartlit, 2006.64. © Beverly Pepper. Beverly Pepper, Denver Monoliths, 2005-2006. Composite cementituous material. After treatment, 2013. Denver Art Museum Collection: Funds from Jana and Fred Bartlit, 2006.64. © Beverly Pepper