The annual resident artists show at RedLine Contemporary Art Center is always more than the sum of its parts. And no show has more parts than this one.
This year alone, the exhibition features works by more than 30 artists — painters, sculptors, photographers and videographers, along with a number of assorted multimedia installation-makers whose contributions are impossible to categorize. It’s exhaustive and illuminating and full of excellent work, even if the variety of themes and skill levels on display can make it a challenge to consume all at once.
If you go
“Chromatic Cogitations: Rhythm Reboot” continues through Feb.13 at RedLine Contemporary Art Center, 2350 Arapahoe St. It’s free. Info at 303-296-4448 or redlineart.org.
Still, I consider the residents’ show to be one of the most important events on Colorado’s visual arts calendar. That’s because RedLine is known as a star factory. In its 11 years of providing hand-picked artists with free studio space and creative encouragement, the RiNo nonprofit has sparked — or, just as important, reenergized — the careers of many of the region’s most crucial contemporary artists. Anyone looking for the next resonant voices in Colorado art starts the search at RedLine.
RedLine is where I first encountered the work of Amber Cobb, Gretchen Marie Schaffer, Molly Bounds, Caleb Hahne and Derrick Velasquez. It’s where I came to appreciate Joel Swanson, Thomas Evans, Sandra Fettingis, Sammy Lee, Sterling Crispin, George P. Perez and Daisy Patton.
That’s a bit of a laundry list but it also happens to be a roster of some of the most exciting and impactful visual artists and curators associated with Denver today.
This year’s residents’ show offers samples from a new round of artists with the potential to make their own enduring mark, folks like Victor Machado, Cherish Marquez, Juntae TeeJay Hwang, Sarah Darlene Palmeri, Vinni Alfonso and Victor Escobedo. And there are better-known names ready for rediscovery if you don’t know them already, like Rochelle Johnson and Lauri Lynnxe Murphy.
Again, a list. But that’s how it goes with the annual residents’ show, where quantity always threatens to overwhelm quality. I have great sympathy for the curator brought on each year to organize the effort.
The offerings in these extravaganzas — from current and select past residents — are all full of ambition. Beyond that, they have little in common. These artists are all doing their own thing and are only assembled here together because of their connections to RedLine.
This year’s wrangler, curator Rosie Gordon-Wallace, seems to quickly have understood the futility of building a legit theme into the show, writing in the printed exhibition guide that visitors ought to be “forming their own narrative about the selection and placement of the artworks.” At least she is being honest there.
She did find a way to make it all come together, and with considerable wisdom, arranging the objects based on their physical and emotive characteristics rather than attempting to force links between the unrelated intellectual ideas that the artists instilled in them.
Gordon-Wallace put objects of complementary colors and shapes in proximity to each other. She alternated big pieces with small pieces; dramatic pieces with calming pieces; quick-hit pieces with pieces that require a bit more time to consume.
The result is an exhibition — titled “Chromatic Cogitations: Rhythm Reboot” — that unfolds with a gentle and infectious cadence. There’s a pulse to it, a tempo, that guides viewers from one spot to the next.
If the job was to present these resident artists as a community of humans, then Gordon-Wallace has succeeded where all of her predecessors failed. It feels whole rather than fragmented, and that’s probably the best thing you can say about a large group exhibition.
And I want to review the show in that spirit, to avoid creating yet another list by pointing out winners and losers among the people and objects in it. It’s better to experience this outing as one grand gesture rather than 30 distinct parts. I say let that beat bounce you from the ephemeral digital offerings to the hard ceramics, from the murals to the mobiles to the collages, from the coy historical references to the urgent rants about contemporary political and social issues. It’s all in there.
Visitors will still spot the stars of tomorrow, if that is what they are looking for, but they will also get a wider view of the kind of art that gets made today. This show reflects well the variety of interests and creative strategies that propel enterprising artists at this moment in time.
Also, because of the times, it might be helpful to point out that RedLine is a large space, with high ceilings and plenty of breathing room. As galleries go, it is loft-like and lightly tread, especially on weekdays. So anyone looking to maintain a safe distance from others during the present pandemic might find it a comfortable place to take in some art.
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