Here We Go Again: New Red Brick exhibitions kick off a season of rebirth in Aspen
What: Koko Bayer exhibition
Where: West Gallery, Red Brick Center for the Arts
When: Through Oct. 28
What: Outdoor sculpture exhibition
Where: Red Brick Center for the Arts lawn and grounds
When: Through Sept. 30
What: ‘Line and Form’
Who: Artists Matthew Eames, Kristen Friebele, Ami Purser, Linda Lowry and William Weidman
Where: Red Brick Center for the Arts
When: Through July 22
More info and images at redbrickaspen.com
The Red Brick Center for the Arts is kicking open the door to the post-vaccine summer culture season in Aspen with three new exhibitions and the return of its in-person receptions, marking a return to life in the cradle of Aspen’s arts scene after nearly 15 quiet months of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s super exciting to be able to welcome the community back into the Red Brick,” Red Brick director Sarah Roy said, “to enjoy that experience of seeing art together again for the first time.”
Appropriately, the new era is beginning with a Bayer.
Koko Bayer is the granddaughter of Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer, who, of course, designed the postwar aesthetics of Aspen as it was reborn as a Utopian resort and lived here from the 1940s through the 1970s.
Koko Bayer lives in Denver and has made a name for herself making temporary outdoor art, most recently with “Project Spread Hope.” Bayer launched this installation during the COVID-19 lockdown in Denver, wheat-pasting positive imagery, text and color in public areas.
The Red Brick show includes new works from the series, here installed both inside and out.
“I started thinking about what has that (positive) effect on me? Topping the list is the color yellow. I love how it amplifies light and mood,” Bayer explained in the announcement of the Red Brick show.
The two indoor installations include a yellow and orange heart — pasted on a red brick wall — with the word “hope” written in Herbert Bayer’s universal font. The second piece borrows imagery from Koko’s grandfather and — in the Herbert Bayer’s groundbreaking photomontage style — superimposes a images of a hand and an eye.
More of Bayer’s pieces are in the outdoor exhibition, pasted on a trash shed on the rear Red Mountain side of the Red Brick Center on a stretch of bike path that has not seen new art in years.
These bright day-glo hearts, with “esperanza” and “love” printed in their centers, offer a surprising dose of joy for passersby on what has historically been a mundane shed.
“It’s opened up our thinking about how we can place art in these high-traffic areas and improve the experience here,” Roy said. “To have this message here has been amazing.”
The other new piece on the bike path is Wally Graham’s “Peace Balloon,” a 20-foot-tall sculpture that places a Bayer blue “balloon” — actually a repurposed military fuel-drop tank from a World War II era bomber — placed atop a piece of carved Yule marble.
“The simplicity of a balloon floating in the air has long been a centerpiece of festive gatherings enjoyed by both young and old alike,” Graham wrote of the piece, “representing joy, imagination, community and freedom.”
The quiet menace of the war materiel balloon, he hopes, will spark thought and what he characterizes as “a healthy respectful dialogue around global issues that affect us all as citizens of this world.”
Back inside, the group show “Line and Form” showcases work by five artists who had been scheduled for a show in the gallery last summer but had it delayed to now.
With another year working toward the show, these bodies of work evolved with the influence of the pandemic.
Among them are a selection of Linda Lowry’s new abstract paintings, which combine imagery reminiscent of plant and marine life but had an unexpected origin.
“When the pandemic began, I started growing seeds out of curiosity and some degree of survivalist instinct,” Lowry wrote in her artist statement for the show. “It was a nurturing experience to watch little plants grow and it inspired a more in-depth expression of plant evolution.”
These pieces evolved into color and composition studies, she explained.
“The repetition and structure of the process of making watercolor and oil monotypes was soothing,” she wrote.
The long hallway gallery is also showcasing new sculptures by Matthew Eames, of Carbondale, who has been making uncanny machine-like works from clay and wire and other materials. Ami Purser, from Grand Junction, is exploring themes of migration and the experiences of local migrant workers with intricate cut paper works and imagery of moths. Printmaker William Wiedman is experimenting with patterns and collisions of patterns.
And printmaker Kristin Friebele, a former Red Brick resident artist, is experimenting with new combinations of materials in multiple layers of acrylic and spray paint and watercolor and more — with subtle abstract imagery carved into it from various gradations of white, finding textures within it.
This trio of exhibitions also unveils new sculptures on the Red Brick’s front lawn, a traditionally underutilized space that Roy and the Red Brick’s exhibition committee are now committed to activating.
Among the new sculptures, on view through September, is a head-turning piece by Jason Mehl. Formerly based in Aspen and now on the Front Range, Mehl has made a large-scale wood sculpture with a CNC router and painted blue. From afar, one might think it’s a ship’s anchor. Up close, it’s more complicated — some have taken to referring to it as a “dinosaur bone” and “prosthetic hip.” The object takes its aesthetic cues from both industrial design and microbiology.
It matches the scale and the curiosity-stoking playfulness of Griffin Loop’s oversized steel version of a paper airplane. Titled “Launch Intention,” that work has been on view here since last year and has started a conversation about intentional living practices in Aspen. Between them on the lawn are yet more new sculptures, among them Jerry Wingren’s “Floating Cubes,” a kinetic work with suspended wood cubes fashioned from beetle-infested pine.
The in-person reception marks the return of a beloved tradition for local artists and the cross-section of the Aspen community who comes out for these shows. Year-round, Red Brick openings are the steady drumbeat setting the rhythm for the rest of Aspen’s arts and culture happenings. But this sculpture exhibition on the lawn is the first in recent memory and the installations on the rear side of the building may mark a new tradition for the Red Brick and its community of artists.
“Part of the reason we really wanted to have this sculptural show this summer is so we do offer people the ability to experience art outdoors,” Roy said. “We want to use the beautiful lawn, to allow people to have a picnic and sit under art and pass it on the thoroughfare.”
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Did you hear that? It’s the sound of music — and if the kickoff of the Snowmass Village Free Concert Series was any indication, Fanny Hill sure was alive with it Thursday night.