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Thursday, March 6,2014

Reconsidered

BMoCA exhibitions encourage new ways of thinking about old things

By Nadia Mishkin
Derrick Velasquez, "Deep Hug Part III."

Artist Kim Jongku creates calligraphic poetry on canvas out of the same material used in military tanks and weapons. Derrick Velasquez lets gravity work on boat upholstery to create stacks of vivid, colorful patterns in his wall installations. Aníbal Catalan examines basic scenes from everyday life and re-imagines them in his bold, abstract paintings and digital prints.

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art’s (BMoCA) current exhibitions feature these three artists, presenting works that encourage viewers to see the everyday materials that they interact with and the spaces they inhabit in a new light.

Coming from distinct geographical and cultural backgrounds — Catalan from Mexico, Jongku from South Korea, and Velasquez from California — each artist approaches a common idea from a unique perspective. In these exhibitions they arrive at their own interpretations of the human relationship to materials and their environment, or their perception of everyday sights and places.

Jongku’s series, Steel Powder Painting and Landscape, consists of six large-scale works. Jongku works using a proprietary technique he calls steel-powder painting, in which he grinds down industrial iron material into powder filings. He then paints the resulting steel powder onto his canvases. He writes poetry in Korean script, then turns the piece 180 degrees to let the loose powder fall downward via gravity. The result leaves only a vague whisper of the letters, leaving to your imagination what the words once said. The process turns cold, hard metal into poetry. This dramatic transformation encompasses his interest in probing the potential of a material. His work examines relationships to the substance, and allows it to have new meaning. Jongku produced the paintings during a two-month visiting artist residency at University of Colorado Boulder, and they are on display at BMoCA’s satellite gallery in Macky Auditorium on the CU campus.

Repurposing industrial materials also fascinates Denver-based artist Velasquez. He uses materials such as two-by-fours, Masonite and acrylic paint in his work. In this exhibition, which he calls A Language of Structure, he uses marine vinyl, the fabric used in the interior of boats. Velasquez’s work is organic yet deliberate, as he carefully places the vinyl strips on top of one another in colorful patterns hanging over a wooden wall-piece, and then allows them to be shaped by gravity as they fall into place.

“[Velasquez] is interested in discovering that moment when a material reveals itself as something new based on the force or manipulation put on it,” explains Mardee Goff, assistant curator at BMoCA. “He has hit it head on the nail for a young artist, incorporating balance, pressure and tension to show how a material can lose its understanding, and gain a new one when displayed in a different way.”

While Jongku and Velasquez manipulate physical material into new forms, Catalan takes a more imaginary approach to his work. He displays his perception of a place in an abstract form. Catalan’s work in the show is called The Land, The Space and The Square. It is an interdisciplinary production that joins digital prints, sculpture and video elements, exploring these perceptions of space.

“He regards each of his pieces as individual works, although they really come together as a whole to explain this concept,” Goff says. The sculpture installation features fluorescent lights and two-dimensional fragments of geometric shapes built onto wires that span diagonally from the floor to the ceiling. The structure connects digital prints throughout the room that feature the same colors and shapes as the sculpture. The installation allows the viewer to feel as if they are entering the piece, which is his abstract re-creation of another space.

“[Velasquez] relays a three-dimensional structure in a two-dimensional image plane,” Goff explains. “This creates an illusion of space that might lead us to new perspectives of the space that we didn’t know existed.”

Catalan takes everyday sights and redefines them.

“Contemplation is the basic element in my process,” Catalan explains. “I can spend hours a day just watching and observing the land, a cityscape, a simple event in the city or even in the country. I make analogies between natural and artificial growth, from something visually recognizable to something more abstract. The exhibited work is like a whole menu of possibilities of representation that addresses the idea of land and architecture and how they are growing and invading space. For the video works, I wanted to mix all of those elements from a different vision or point of view. Many shots are from very basic and daily life events, high contrast shadows, flying machines or lights in the sky and so on, and the final result looks like abstract paintings.”

The concepts presented in this exhibition may inspire us to question our relationship to material and space: How does a space — be it a building, park or natural landscape — exist beyond how humans inhabit or perceive it? How can steel, marine vinyl or any man-made material be used beyond its pre-conceived function? The exhibitions of Catalan and Velasquez can be pondered from now until April 13 at BMoCA. Jongku’s works are on display in the Macky Auditorium gallery through March 30.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

 

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