Devon Dikeou “Mid-Career Smear” and Reclaiming the Ordinary

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Devon Dikeou, “’What’s Love Got To Do With It’: From Sculpture,” 1991 ongoing; (detail) “Reserved for Leo Castelli: Since Cezanne (After Clive Bell),” 2012 ongoing


“In-betweeness” is a central theme to Devon Dikeou’s art practice, which she describes as the spaces and materials that set the stage for important events and human interaction. She takes a specific element of that space, like a sign board from a gallery lobby or a napkin from a cocktail party and magnifies its role in what transpired within its proximity. She often goes further to recreate the space itself, be it a Parisian café or a bedroom in The White House. This conceptual model lends itself to art that materializes as everyday objects and installations, but there is more to it than that. What makes Dikeou a master of this model is that she is not merely repurposing the ordinary but rather reclaiming and elevating it as something significant, worthy, and precious. We now exist in a time when people crave nothing but normalcy, and Dikeou’s works exhibited in her retrospective exhibition “Mid-Career Smear” at The Dikeou Collection satisfies that craving for the everyday.


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Devon Dikeou, “Security/Secure,” 1989; (detail) “Do I Know You?,” 1991 ongoing; (detail) “The News,” 1991 ongoing; (detail) Security Ke-Master, 1991 ongoing


After an extended closure due to Covid-19, The Dikeou Collection officially reopened to the public in March 2021. Seeing new and familiar faces walk through the doors has been a refreshing reminder how important real-life art experiences are for everyone in the creative ecosystem, especially when that experience mimics “real life.” Security/Secure, The News, Do I Know You, Security Ke-Master… these are all objects one would see throughout the day, but in 2020 and 2021 thus far, they are now novel and dare I say, exciting. A man with his family visited recently, and while in the office (complete with an employee time clock and cards) he commented how he felt like he was at work, a place he had not been in close to a year. And the crazy part is that he actually seemed happy and energized by that realization.


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Devon Dikeou, “’Takes A Licking, And Keeps On Ticking’—Timex Ad Campaign,” 1991 ongoing


Only in these strange Covid-times would someone revel in the fact that an art exhibition makes them feel like they are at their job. There is an inherent understanding that art experiences are special and meant to be appreciated because we carve time out of our busy schedules to have them. We seek opportunities to momentarily escape our normal lives and try to see the world through a fresh creative lens. Now that the world’s scope of normal is upended, we long to go back to the days of seeing businesses open their big front gates in the morning and grabbing a sandwich from the deli before heading into work or school. Devon Dikeou and The Dikeou Collection invite you to return to that world, just as you left it.


-Hayley Richardson

Devon Dikeou “Mid-Career Smear” Now Open by Appointment

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The Dikeou Collection has been carefully monitoring the rate of COVID-19 in Denver and modeling health and safety protocol at art and culture venues throughout the state. We are pleased to announce The Dikeou Collection will reopen its doors to the public, exhibiting Devon Dikeou “Mid-Career Smear” by appointment, on Monday, March 1, 2021.


Curated by Cortney Lane Stell, “Mid-Career Smear” is an exhibition that forgoes conventional dividing lines and displays a fascination for the human-made world, calling to attention its inter-relatedness while softening the lines of the artist’s role—with a dose of humor and absurdity on top.


To help ensure a safe and comfortable experience, appointments will be available Wednesday-Friday. Email info@dikeoucollection.org or call 303-623-3001 to set up a date and time to visit.


We will be following the recommended guidelines from the CDC as well as The American Association of Museums, and will implement the following visitor guidelines to help keep you, our staff, and our community safe:


  • Masks are required for all staff and visitors to enter the Colorado Building and The Dikeou Collection. If you do not have a mask, we will provide one for you.
  • Physical distancing markers, designated entrance and exit points, and one-way directional signage have been placed throughout the collection.
  • Multiple sanitization stations have been placed throughout the collection.
  • All high-touch surfaces including doorknobs and checklists are sterilized before and after each scheduled visit.
  • Do not enter the collection if you feel sick or have a temperature over 100 degrees.

The safety of our visitors, staff, and community are our top priority. We look forward to safely welcoming you to The Dikeou Collection. Rock on!

Dikeou Superstars: Lucky Debellevue

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2011 was a year of growth for The Dikeou Collection. The Dikeou Pop-Up Space opened in The Golden Triangle District with new painting and sculptural installations by Nils Folke Anderson, and new work by Devon Dikeou and Lucky DeBellevue were added into the fold at The Dikeou Collection. Although they differ both formally and conceptually, Anderson and DeBellevue’s work both fit perfectly within the theoretical framework of the collection. Like Agathe Snow’s “Sludgie the Whale” and Johannes Vanderbeek’s “Newspaper Ruined,” these acquisitions amplify and celebrate works made with humble materials that manifest in monumental scale. DeBellevue utilized hundreds of chenille stems (AKA pipe cleaners) to create his towering yet inviting “Otter,” which envelopes the viewer in its fuzzy and kaleidoscopic embrace.


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Suspended from the ceiling by glittering gold chenille stems and then gracefully spilling onto the floor in rich shades of red, blue, and black, the shape of “Otter” is reminiscent of a teepee with a triangular opening for people to enter. One’s experience of the work shifts from viewing the sublime to stepping inside a velveteen lattice cocoon. The title of the work is a nod to a slang term in the gay bear community, and “[uses] coded references that categorize interests within a particular community […] as objects kind of hiding in plain sight.” DeBellevue does not typically title his work, but in this case the title spurs delight in all, whether they know the true meaning or not.


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DeBellevue’s use of chenille stems take on different forms and usages within the larger scope of his oeuvre. They figured prominently in his sculptures for about ten years from the early 90s to early 2000s (“Otter” was made in 2002) before implementing them as tools in his later 2-dimensional works. In his Untitled prints from 2011, DeBellevue used the chenille stems as stamps where he would bend them into different shapes, apply paint, and then press on to the paper. There are four of these 2-D works at The Dikeou Collection, and when placed within the same context as the sculpture new paradoxes arise. Is the sculpture a 3-dimensional drawing? The drawings are 2-dimensional sculptures? To the artist, it is a way to explore the various ways materials can be used. When the scope of DeBellevue’s work is looked at chronologically, one can see how the flecks from one series of work becomes more prominent in the next, like a continuous evolution of material development. Good art is a balance of change and consistency, and the focus on pattern, minimalism, and abstraction paired with a progressive approach to materiality makes DebBllevues creative world a magical and warming place to explore.


-Hayley Richardson

Dikeou Superstars: Joshua Smith


In 1960 the legendary singer-songwriter Roy Orbison released his first top-ten hit “Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel).” He and co-writer Joe Melson originally tried to sell the song to Elvis, but after he turned it down, they decided to record it themselves. Orbison’s haunting vocals and unconventional arrangements of this song established his trademark sound. Today, “Only the Lonely” echoes through The Dikeou Collection galleries thanks to a set of handmade speakers built by artist Joshua Smith’s grandfather, which he gifted to the artist on the occasion of his high school graduation. Smith graduated in 2001 and brought the speakers into his artistic repertoire in 2007; he was 24 years old at this time, the same age as Orbison when he released the song. For a work loaded with minutiae, this secondary coincidence is another tie that binds personal, familial, and universal histories together.



In the six-year span between the speakers existing as household objects and objets d’art, they acquired the typical stains and scratches any well-loved furnishing would endure. Combined with the melodies that emanate from within, one cannot help but create a heavily romanticized and emotional interpretation of the work. But when removed from a domestic setting and programmed to repeat “Only the Lonely” every minute and 44 seconds, grandpa’s speakers become “a piece” of time-based media that calls for “a subtle jabbing not at minimalism or late modernism, but at the contemporary rush to further deconstruct these movements.” Straddled between the palpable and the conceptual, Smith’s Untitled (Speakers) also hovers around a nebulous space that engenders both collaboration and appropriation.


Engineering and constructing custom audio equipment is an artform in and of itself, and Smith’s grandfather is demonstrably adept at this craft. The speakers are the intermediary between Orbison’s music and Smith’s philosophy; it is a tripartite union bound by Smith’s artful moderation. While the art of appropriation is far from new, Smith’s use of the speaker as a primary formal device comes right at the crux of its popularity in the 21st century timeline. Tom Sachs has been creating his own boomboxes and DJ gear with heavily appropriated materials since the mid-90s, with many of the pieces playing his personal musical selections. Mark Leckey started constructing and exhibiting his sound systems in the early 2000s, and artists Gary Simmons and Cosmo Whyte continue to build the sound system culture within the art world today. Smith’s Untitled (Speakers) may be miniscule in scale compared to works by the aforementioned artists, but its output is far from small – the sound is as powerful as the sentiment.  


-Hayley Richardson                            

Dikeou Superstars: Nils Folke Anderson

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In the fall of 2011 Brooklyn-based artist Nils Folke Anderson installed one of his mammoth sculptures at The Dikeou Collection and two at the former Dikeou Pop-Up Space, each Untitled yet identified by the street names of their locations (California and Bannock, respectively). The sculptures have lives of their own as, by their very nature, they shift and squeak and shed little foam balls, minutely changing form over time. Consisting of 9 large interlocking squares of Styrofoam, they reflect the artist’s interest in reciprocal linkage, an internet term that represents an agreement between two webmasters to provide links to one another’s websites. Reciprocal linkage also carries symbolic meaning about balance, change, and reciprocity. While interpreting this work through a lens that is “the year 2020,” the philosophy embedded in Nils’ sculptures rings clear during this unhinged time in history.


Video by Leanne Goebel for Adobe Airstream


Each of the squares that make up Nils’ sculptures measure about 9 feet long on each side. The squares are connected in a chain link fashion and start off in a geometrically pleasing nested pattern. When ready to install, Nils moves and manipulates the squares by standing them up and rotating them around, allowing other pieces to fall and turn on their own. The configuration is constantly in flux and there is no predetermined arrangement – the artist’s decision to stop comes when he feels “the elements make an interdependent stasis,” where it can stand on its own and satisfy its relationship with the space. There is no predicting how long the sculpture will be able to support itself. Eventually it starts to slip, making shrill sounds as the foam rubs against itself and shed little pieces on the floor.


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In sculpture, certain parts need to lower their profile to prop up others so that the unit as a whole can achieve stability. In life, those with privilege, platforms, and strength need to learn how to use those benefits to support others for the sake of overall balance and equality. As our world struggles dramatically in health, human rights, politics, education, climate change, and economics, we need to learn to find balance through sacrifice. We also must accept that balance is not permanent, and when one area starts to fall we must readjust our priorities and prior configurations in order to support a new composition. Nils’ sculptures at The Dikeou Collection and Dikeou Pop-Up Space have not remained in the same positions he left them. People nudge the edges as they walk by, kids have crawled through like jungle gyms. An employee insisted the installations at the pop-up moved several feet across the room on their own. In the many forms the sculptures have taken, they always achieve harmony through change.


-Hayley Richardson

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