Best of 2012: Colorado Art in Review

Looking back over the year that was 2012 what strikes me is the resiliency and determination of artists, makers and creators to continue doing what matters, what has meaning and follow (for lack of a less clichéd word) their passion. While Colorado seemed to spin out of control with tragic forest fires and horrific shootings all while being central to a divisive presidential campaign, the arts and culture remained centrifugal and steady amidst the chaos. In fact there was so much to take in during 365 days that it was impossible for any one person to encounter it all in fullness and contemplation. So here, based upon my perspective and experience is a review of what I found significant in 2012.

Living in a small, rural community myself, I found inspiration in an organization called M12.

Based in Denver and Last Chance on the rural eastern plains of Colorado, M12 utilizes contemporary art explorations in community building and in many ways is redefining contemporary art in a rural setting through interdisciplinary site-based art works, research projects, education and outreach programs. M12 is The Black Hornet a race car that races at the I-76 speedway in Fort Morgan; its Open Space, a wooden geodesic dome situated in a wheat field inviting contemplation of the landscape and the cycle of farming; its Action on the Plains supporting experimental art-making where Jetsonorama recently wheat pasted community history on the side of barns and buildings; it’s the Experimental Site for Rural Creativity, a site-specific, rural cultural center that will provide an interface for art and ideas that are directly inspired by the landscape of the high plains; it’s the Big Feed, part county fair, part community barbeque, part symposium; its Campito, sheep wagon as sustainable living, cultural heritage, art and science. It’s also bicycles, rovers, bird sanctuary and more. M12 has captured more than my attention, they were invited to participate in The 13th Annual Venice Architecture Biennale, the 2011 Australian Biennial (SPACED), The Biennial of the Americas and their programs have appeared nationally and internationally. M12 was also recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and awarded an Our Town grant. This is a collective of artists, curators and creative professionals passionate about local and global problem solving providing evolutionary thinking and innovation in art, community and communication.

Another Colorado project that is receiving national recognition is AIR—Arts Incubator of the Rockies–with a mission to develop, support and advance artists and the power of creativity throughout communities in the ten state Rocky Mountain region, using web-based, Internet and distance learning technologies to provide networking, workshops, training and coaching. AIR also received funding from the NEA Our Town Grant Program and is the only Colorado based nonprofit to receive support from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. While there is a lot of buzz around this project, it remains to be seen how many artists and creative individuals  will become paid members, whether the online format will provide the connection and networking desired by artists, or whether their educational curriculum will prove to be superior to a plethora of other offerings out there.

Shifting gears, from large creative projects to significant legislation, Colorado passed a new film incentive bill and has created a unique incentive based on the experience of director, producer and filmmaker Donald Zuckerman. Colorado now offers a 20% rebate on qualified expenses plus a loan guarantee program for films, television commercials and game production. Recently, Universal Sports Network announced they are moving their production and broadcast operations from California to the Denver area. More indicators that the new incentive is working according to Colorado Film & Video Association: The state has incentivized three times what it did in the entire previous year; more commercials are being produced in Colorado; several independent feature film projects are considering producing their films in Colorado; and major studios are calling the state to talk about production. But the biggest news in film making was the Lone Ranger filming some scenes near Creede–all without the incentive because Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp can pretty much do whatever they want and are guaranteed to rake in billions on their movie. Who cares how much it costs to make it!

Also bringing in the visitors and attracting more people to the state was the Denver Art Museum with their blockbuster exhibitions. Becoming Van Gogh–a DAM only exhibition and Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, which had its only U.S. appearance in Denver, shocking the fashion world. YSL and cowboy boots? What? Additional programming at the museum has included these standouts: El Anatsui, Theodore Waddell, Ed Ruscha and Dana Schutz. While the Logan Lectures have featured: Martha Daniels, Tucker Nichols, Richard Tuttle, Lawrence Argent, Nick Cave, El Anatasui, Lucas Reiner, Larry Bell, Dana Schutz and Bill Amundson, all sharing their creative insights. But it wasn’t only the DAM bringing international artists and curators to town. David Anfam and the Clyfford Still Museum shed new light and made new discoveries about Still’s connection to Van Gogh in an inspiring lecture and intriguing exhibition. Meanwhile, the Dikeou Collection brought Nils Folke Anderson to their pop up space and Lordy Rodriquez talked about his work as part of the Art Swap Dikeou did with Art Pace in San Antonio. At the Denver Botanic Gardens, East met West through Kizuna’s amazing bamboo installations by Tetsunori Kawana and Stephen Talasnik while at DIA Vochol gave travelers something at which to marvel during a layover.

2012 was also the year that brought well-deserved attention to some key Colorado artists, both elevating and honoring their contributions. Stan Brakhage and his key works were the focal point around which Visual Rhythm was designed. De Wain Valentine, after receiving much attention in Pacific Standard Time was presented in a survey exhibition at the CSU Art Museum in Fort Collins called Colorado’s Valentine. Robert Mangold was retrospected at the Arvada Center in Time, Space and Motion. Clark Richert created Expanded Cinema II: The Ultimate Painting for the cultural documentary exhibition West of Center at the MCA/Denver. Technically, the work is a re-creation of a collaborative circular painting done by Richert, Gene Bernofsky and Richard Kallweit at Drop City outside of Trinidad. Additionally, MCA and the Aspen Art Museum selected seven Colorado artists to feature in Continental Drift: Christina Battle, Scott Johnson, Jeanne Liotta, Sarah McKenzie, Adam Milner, Yumi Roth and Edie Winograde. Dave Yust was also given a retrospective at the Loveland Art Museum and DU professor and artist Laleh Mehran turned the Fuse Box gallery at the Denver Art Museum into a technological, sociological, religious and cultural mecca with her work Men of God, Men of Nature.

Denver galleries seemed to up the ante as well, as if they are stating its time to go big or go home. At Robischon we were treated to international star Judy Pfaff and local newcomer Brandon Bultman while David B. Smith Gallery gave us Hong Seon Jang and Gregory Euclide and Plus Gallery showed William Betts and Jenny Morgan. Even smaller galleries and regional art venues have national and international reach. Places like Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts in Pagosa Springs consistently show high caliber work by Colorado artists such as Ron Fundingsland and Karl Isberg and nationally recognized newcomers and established artists. While in Colorado Springs, a high school student named Karissa Gonzalez-Othon blew away the competition with her sculpture of an African warrior, which has been seen all around town including at the Fine Arts Center.

We saw a lot by artists Austin Parkhill who was seen in Art Takes Times Square, at the Arvada Center and in a solo exhibition at Plus Gallery; Adam Milner whose work was in Face, Places & Spaces at the Arvada Center and also in MCA’s Continental Drift currently on view at the Aspen Art Museum had solo exhibits at Colorado Photographic Arts Center and Vertigo Art Space and was in group exhibits at Ice Cube Gallery and The Garage in San Francisco; ditto Scott Johnson who was in Continental Drift and partnered with James Turrell in a standout exhibition at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs.

Just a few of the things that stand out in this little art galaxy of Colorado.




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