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Color fills DU’s Riverhouse home

John Walker, Box Canyon II, aquatint

Inside the imposing new School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management hang 23 prints. Ranging from colorful abstracts to elegiac landscapes, the temporary exhibit enlivens the grand public spaces of the hospitality school, offering guests a visual perk.

It’s a diverse collection of work representing the efforts of some extraordinary contemporary artists. The school’s reception area, for example, features Sol LeWitt’s bold piece Wavy Brushstrokes Superimposed #3. A series of color fields by Terri Zupanc, illustrating the progressive printing process, line a corridor off the domed lobby. And next to the gleaming 2,800-square-foot Meyer Kitchen, John Walker’s Box Canyon II aquatint makes a dramatic statement.

The works are on extended loan from Riverhouse Editions and were part of a fall 2005 show, “Riverhouse Editions: Master Prints by 44 Artists,” at DU’s Myhren Gallery. These exhibits represent the early stages of a relationship that will transform the University of Denver’s art collection.

Perched on the banks of the Elk River in Clark, Colo., Riverhouse Editions is a publisher and maker of fine prints. Every summer, Riverhouse invites artists to work in its alpine etching studio with master printer Susan Hover Oehme. Since its inception in 1988, Riverhouse has produced upwards of 2,000 prints by more than 44 artists, including celebrities like LeWitt, who abjured 1950s abstract expressionism in favor of more conceptual and minimalist work.

DU will soon receive its own Riverhouse prints from the 2005 summer residencies. In 2000, Riverhouse donated more than 200 “college proofs” to Northwestern University — the alma mater of Riverhouse founders William and Jan van Straaten. Now it is extending its commitment to the study and teaching of printmaking. From now on, DU will receive one print of every Riverhouse multiple “edition” for its collections.

“This is a huge gift,” says Myhren Gallery Director Dan Jacobs, curator of DU’s art collections. “It’s a turning point for us to kick off our renewed collection activities with such an important gift.”

The DU art collection Jacobs manages numbers about 1,000 pieces and includes a smattering of Vance Kirkland works (Kirkland was the founding director of DU’s art school), work by alumni, faculty and former faculty, as well as a strong selection of Asian and early 20th century French prints.

The Riverhouse relationship will not only augment DU’s collections, but also will open enormous pedagogical opportunities to DU students, Jacobs says. In addition to the fact that these works can be used in teaching and display situations, DU students will have the chance to intern at Riverhouse — three have already done so — participate in master printing workshops and attend lectures by Riverhouse artists.

“The van Straatens have been extremely generous,” says Annette Stott, director of the School of Art and Art History, “and our students are the beneficiaries.”

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