The Denver Art Museum recently announced the acquisition of two complementary, site-specific installations by internationally renowned artist Shantell Martin, on view at the DAM in the exhibition Shantell Martin: Words and Lines through May 31, 2021. Acquired with funds from the DAM’s Volunteer Acquisitions Endowment Fund, the two works are now part of the DAM’s collection of modern and contemporary art.
The architecture of the Denver Art Museum is interesting. As I continued to study the spaces where my work would go, the opportunities the walls presented became more playful and interactive. The results of the lines and words were inviting and accessible. My end goal is to put a smile on people’s face, and I hope that my work continues to resonate with people as time goes on.
The two works, The Elevator and Column, will both remain on extended view in the atrium of the museum’s Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Building for visitors to experience. The Elevator allows viewers to physically enter one of Martin’s signature drawings. Wrapping the interior of one of the DAM’s elevators with vinyl from floor to ceiling, The Elevator transforms the ordinary task of moving up and down between floors into an immersive art experience. With phrases such as “Why are you here?,” and “Let’s help each other rise,” Martin’s work invites audiences to reflect on their active role in the museum.
Upon exiting the elevator, visitors can see a continuation of Martin’s drawings on the column located on each level of the Hamilton Building. Titled Column, this installation depicts stick figures standing on the shoulders of one another in a communal gesture of support, helping each other ascend the four-story column. The column drawings amplify the artist’s presence throughout the museum and highlight Martin’s idea that art elevates individuals in limitless ways and in unexpected places.
British-born artist Shantell Martin is known for her signature black and white drawings that explore the relationship between intersectionality, visual art, storytelling, and identity. Her work features short texts merging into faces and figures enveloped by curved lines. Her whimsical freestyle line illustrations are a visualization of Martin’s interiority, which emerge as stream-of-consciousness imagery. This visual flow of words and lines prompts viewers to consider her work as both meditative and lighthearted—becoming at times interactive for the audience.
"The Denver Art Museum is thrilled to purchase Martin’s two site-specific installations for the permanent collection, to ensure that the museum will be able to share them with current and future visitors. These works have become visitor favorites and I’m thrilled to add Shantell Martin and her work to our collection," said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director.