Boulder - Colorado is a hiker’s dream destination, from Estes National Park to the Rocky Mountain National Park to the cavernous 14,000 foot mountain Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. But, don’t be fooled by the mountainous the landscapes there is actually more to Colorado than meets the eye, including a budding art scene in the cities of Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver. So, though I did find my mornings were best spent tackling rocky mountain trails, my afternoons were devoted to investigating just what art the state of Colorado had to offer.
My first exploration was of the small town of Boulder, located just thirty odd miles outside of the large city of Denver. The town is a college town, so there are no shortage of quaint cafes and well-known retail stores like Burton, Free People and Patagonia. But, interestingly Boulder was originally established as an artist’s colony, which explains the abundance of commercial art galleries that line the boulevards and pedestrian walkways. In the center of town is the one main art institution, the Boulder Contemporary Museum of Art or BMOCA. The building itself mirrors the quaint city, in its small size and modest design, constructed entirely out of traditional red brick.
On view currently is the summer group exhibition, “Visual Rhythms”, which presents non-narrative, abstract, experimental film, video and digital art, all, which display the newest technical developments in media art while referencing earlier artistic explorations. Concentrating on shape, color, design, and environment each artist, through audio-visuals, attempt to create an experiential environment for the viewer that is all encompassing and at times emotionally overwhelming.
The first work I unknowingly engaged with prior to even stepping foot into the space of the museum, was the site-specific work “Open Windows” by Mexican artist Ricardo Rendon. On the buildings exterior, Rendon has installed a series of window coverings that cover the large tinted windows of the museum. Each window covering is constructed from drywall, which Rendon has painted white and marked the surface with a series of circular cutouts, which allow a limited stream of light through into the interior space of the museum. The window covering not only engage the public through an altered architecture but also disrupts the museum’s interior while engaging with the works on view through a darkened environment.
Upon entrance into the darkened museum space, I found myself overwhelmed and slightly disoriented when viewing Stan Brakhage’s film from his "Persian Series" (1999). Brakhage, a widely regarded experimental film artist from Colorado, in this series has used nonconventional techniques to manipulate his film slides using fast cutting, in camera editing and multiple exposures. Then, in order to create non-representational shapes and forms Brakhage paints directly onto the celluloid and marks its surface with a unique repertoire of scratches. In the main space of the museum, "Persian Series" is projected at a rapid, dizzying speed creating a blurring effect that blends the colors, shapes and forms on each slide into abstraction. Similarly, San Paulo artist Fernando Velazquez explores the notion of landscape in relation to brain activity by using a variation of colored lines in his Plexiglas series "Mindscapes". Velazquez composed an algorithm to determine how our surroundings impact our awareness and memory, which he then translated into a literal representation of repetitive streams of color. Velazquez’s use of plexiglass offers a static take on the overarching curatorial theme of visual rhythms, but his design of repetitive lines mimics the effect of Brakhage’s film- where if stared at for long enough the lines of colors experience from the spectator’s initial encounter with the work. My one criticism with the exhibition pertains to the placement of "Mindscapes" in the isolated gallery space at the back of the museum. "Mindscapes" and Brakhage’s "Persian Series 1-5" are the most visually dynamic works out of the entire group exhibition, and seem to best fit the “visual rhythms” narrative that curator wanted to evoke. Had the curator placed both of these works within the same main gallery space, Velazquez’s static translation of Brakhage’s moving colored film would have created a dynamic and powerful juxtaposition which would not only be visually compelling but also, fill the main space of the exhibition which I felt was too sparse.
Another notable work was Sterlin Crispin’s "Inversion" (2012). For "Inversion" Crispin uses a rare technology for his full parallax holographic print. Interestingly, this technology is generally only used for scientific and military purposes, which allows an image to be seen from all directions. Instead of presenting a static print like Velazquez does, "Inversion" displays a hologram comprised of plotted squares with unpredictable shapes, which seem to project outwards from the wall into the gallery space while simultaneously receding into the discernable space behind the image. Crispin challenges the spectator’s perception of space, of what is logical and irrational in Inversion. On a whole, this work explores more generally human consciousness and can be seen as interpreted as a symbolic representation of the polarity between chaos and order.
“Visual Rhythms” is on view from July 5th until September 9th, 2012. The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 1750 13th Street, Boulder, CO 80302
Art - Exhibitions
by Laura Stewart | Wednesday, 15 August 2012