Behind The Scenes of De-Install

March 29, 2019 was the last day Dikeou Collection was open to the public, marking the beginning of the collection’s very first full exhibition rotation. Since April we have been hard at work de-installing, packing, and storing the work of 37 artists occupying 33 rooms and 2 buildings in preparation for the forthcoming Devon Dikeou Mid-Career Smearretrospective exhibition opening on February 20, 2020 at Dikeou Collection. If you have visited the collection before, then you are aware of the scope of this project and might be wondering how we handled some of our very large and complex pieces, like Johannes VanDerBeek’s Newspaper Ruined, Nils Folke Anderson’s Untitled (California), and Agathe Snow’s Sludgie The Whale. We can’t reveal all our secrets, but we are happy to share a little glimpse of some of what’s been going on behind the scenes here for the past couple months.

Dikeou Collection is known for being home to artwork that challenge ideas of space, scale, and material – objects that many would consider “difficult” to house and maintain. Johannes VanDerBeek’s Newspaper Ruined is arguably the most intricate piece in the collection, consisting of four large tables pushed together upon which a city made entirely out of newspaper rests. It took a lot of preliminary planning on how to go about removing and storing this dense and fragile installation.

Many detailed photos were taken of every square inch of the work, documenting where each little piece sat in relation to another. Our art handler Dmitri developed a number-letter system to determine where everything goes on the tables, and then stored each piece in a box or tray labeled with the respective ID. It took over a week to complete!

Untitled (California) by Nils Folke Anderson is a very large movable sculpture (so large you can’t even fully walk into the room it occupies) made out of nine interlocking Styrofoam squares. This piece was constructed in-house by the artist, so it didn’t come equipped with any original packing material or deconstruction method. Because of its large size, unpredictable mobility, and deteriorative nature of the material, we had to completely dismantle the work. 

While this may seem like heresy, we did it in the most honorable way possible by communicating with the artist beforehand, documenting the process, and preserving leftover remnants of the work. What took a couple days to construct was disassembled and removed in a matter of minutes.

Agathe Snow’s Sludgie The Whaleis another large-scale installation that envelopes a whole room with painted tarps, foam rolled and wrapped in muslin, plastic, and wire. 

Like Untitled (California) this is another work that was assembled by the artist without specific instructions on how it all comes together, so our research assistant Hannah created a “map” of the work and developed an ID system similar to Newspaper Ruinedso we will know how to put it back together when we re-install the collection in a couple years.

One of the central tenents of Dikeou Collection is that all artwork remains permanently on view – exhibitions are not rotated but rather expanded – so de-installing the collection in its entirety is now a major chapter in its history. Soon we will begin the process of installing Devon Dikeou’s artwork for Mid-Career Smear, curated by Cortney Lane Stell, which will mark another milestone for us. It has been quite the journey leading up to this point and we can’t wait to share more updates with you along the way.

-Hayley Richardson

Dikeou Collection ‘Goes Dark’ ‘til 2020. . .

March 29, 2019 was the last day Dikeou Collection was open to the public, marking the beginning of the collection’s very first exhibition rotation. All artwork on display in the Colorado Building will be de-installed over the next several months in preparation for the upcoming retrospective exhibition, Devon Dikeou: Mid-Career Smear, curated by Cortney Lane Stell. Mid-Career Smear will open February 2020, and will transform the curiously unusual space into an entirely new experience that will highlight Devon’s practice in a generous and progressive manner. Stell says, “I am thrilled to debut the reimagined spaces of the collection with an exhibition that looks at the expansive practice of artist and Colorado-native, Devon Dikeou. The exhibition will celebrate the diverse artistic achievements of Devon and pay homage to the unique space that she occupies in the region’s contemporary art history.“ Devon Dikeou: Mid-Career Smearwill be on view until 2021, at which time all original Dikeou Collection artwork, as well as new acquisitions, will return on view.

While the main exhibition spaces in The Colorado Building will be closed until the retrospective opening, Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax will remain open for select events and by appointment. On Thursday, April 4, we will celebrate the release of zingmagazine issue 25 at the pop-up (312 E Colfax Ave) with a public reception from 6-9pm. Complimentary food, refreshments, music, and of course copies of the new issue will be provided. Guitarist Jonny Barber, who is also an author and founder of The Colfax Museum, will perform originals and choice covers, with Americana, rock, rockabilly, country & blues all making an appearance. He will be accompanied by bassist Lance Bakemeyer to play us some retro as well as modern tunes. Jeremy ‘Sinistarr’ Howard is a Denver-based DJ hailing from Detroit who is known for his innovative and adventurous sets that deftly explore the soul of yesteryear with a modern context. As a producer, he has releases on legendary labels such as Metalheadz Platinum, Renegade Hardware, and Creative Source. All are welcome to attend this event and hang out with us one last time before we go quiet for a while…

zingmagazine is a New York-based contemporary art publication Edited/Published by artist Devon Dikeou since 1995. Issue #25 includes projects by Sarah Staton, Amy Gatrell, Rachel Cole Dalamangas, Allan McCollum, Shamus Clisset, Robert Smithson, Kerri Scharlin, Gaston Karquel/Geraldine Postel & Magnin, Polly Apfelbaum, Craig Dykers, Michael ross, Jennifer Grimsyer, Karin Bravin, Maria Antelman/Melanie Flood, Willard Boepple, Heidi Zuckerman, Christian Schumann, Elmgreen & Dragset/Maureen Sullivan, Bjarne Melgaard, Romana Drdova, Edgar Serrano/Benjamin Donaldson, Deborah Kass, Natalie Rivera, Brandon Johnson, Walter Robinson, poster by Mark Licari, mask by Romana Drdova, and koozie by Shamus Clisset.

Dikeou Superstars: Momoyo Torimitsu

Walking into the main space of the Dikeou Collection, the visitor is greeted by some striking (and somewhat unsettling) characters: two colossal, inflatable, hot-pink bunny rabbits. These rabbits are so massive, in fact, their heads squish against the ceiling, forcing their creepy cartoon eyes down onto the viewer in a fluoride stare. Their uncanny smiles and stretched latex skin make it hard to look away, leading us to question if it’s sympathy, suspicion, or a misunderstood sweetness at the heart of our intrigue. Momoyo Torimitsu, a Japanese artist and creator of the disturbingly saccharine Somehow, I don’t feel comfortable, has succeeded in her plot to disrupt reality through a palpable, yet hard to articulate, feeling of unease.

According to Torimitsu, the innocence implied by the image of a bunny coupled with their disconcerting size and situation is an exploration of cuteness and its limits. This exploration is not simply aesthetic; it is also socially critical. While created for a show in Paris in 2000, the oeuvre stands in conversation with the pervasive influence of kawaii (cute) imagery in Japan, specifically as it relates to consumerism and prescribed gender roles. On her website, Torimitsu writes that the target audience for cute character goods is not only children but also adult women, a fact which demonstrates the entanglement of consumer culture with a conception of gender identity that regulates Japanese women’s ‘ways of communication, negotiation, smiling, and sexuality.’ Though sensational, this piece has the capability to inspire profound meditation on the pressure to conform to societal boundaries that discourage personal expansion and deny full extension of self. Torimitsu argues, via hot-pink inflatable rabbits, for social reformation.

Plastic bunnies aren’t the only way Torimitsu accomplishes social critique. Just a room over from Somehow, I don’t feel comfortable, a man dressed in business attire is poised mid-crawl on the floor. Life-like enough to elicit an ‘oh shit!’ or two, Miyata-san, the primary component of the piece Miyata Jiro, is an automaton that has toured the world with Torimitsu. 6 TV screens on the wall next to the robot (another element of the piece) show the pair out in the streets of New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, London, Amsterdam, and Sydney. The TVs display Miyata-san inching jerkily down sidewalks around the world, while Torimitsu, dressed as a nurse, attends to him. Looks of confusion, worry, amusement, wonder, and, sometimes, anger follow them, as people struggle to make sense of Miyata Jiro and their own role in the performance.

Miyata-san crawls to represent his identity as a corporate soldier, debilitated by an obsession to succeed within a capitalist system. Though people (mainly those unsure about whether or not Miyata-san is an actual person) may be concerned for the robot’s well-being, the audience is ultimately powerless to help Miyata-san stand up, stop, or reach his non-existent (and thus, unachievable) destination. In light of this dynamic, this piece can also be read as a meta-commentary on the function of the artist - they may facilitate in the illumination of societal issues but are similarly powerless as an individuals to change the way things are.

Somehow, I don’t feel comfortable and Miyata Jiro shock us into contemplation of darker themes Torimitsu has strategically buried beneath spectacular exteriors. Who knew inflatable bunnies could become a symbol for societal restriction and regulation of identity? Or that an animated android businessman could serve as a metaphor for the futility of modern existence? Bleak and familiar as these messages may be, we can appreciate Torimitsu’s work for its ability to galvanize visceral and psychological reactions that play with our conceptions of the abstract and tangible. Torimitsu’s bunnies and robots hoodwink our imaginations, giving form to greater truths and critical reverie through disturbance and enchantment.

- Mimi King

Recap: Beyond Heaven Book Talk

All photos by Hannah Cole

In the early 1980s a new style of music started to emerge in the underground of Chicago. Similar to disco but with more repetitive beats and synthesized baselines, this sound came to be known as house music and became the driving force in the city’s dance community. Thanks to support from local DJs on the radio and at parties, house music rose to international prominence and remains a fixture in the club and electronic scene today. The parties that highlighted house music were promoted with flyers that noted the date and location of the event and the DJs slated to play this new sound, and were distributed at schools, record shops, on the street, and other locations frequented by those “in the know.” Flyers were commonly lost or tossed away once the party was over, so any collection of them from this time is rare. This summer Almighty & Insane Books published over 70 flyers from this era from the collection of Mario “Liv It Up” Luna in a book titled Beyond Heaven: Chicago House Party Flyers from 1983-1989. The Dikeou Collection invited Almighty & Insane Books Founder Brandon Johnson, DJ Brett Starr, and DJ/Producer/Designer Steve Berumen to Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax for a discussion on house music, its origins in Chicago as documented in the book, as well as Denver’s own dance music culture.

Occupying what was once Jerry’s Record Exchange, the Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax was a fitting venue for this event because of its ties to Denver’s music scene. Thousands of records line the walls, and, if given the time to look, you can find some classic house gems and many records containing highly sampled tracks. Mario Luna is a house DJ, so before the conversation we had one of his mixes playing on the hi-fi as people started to arrive – it set the tone perfectly. Brandon opened the conversation by scrolling through a handful of flyers and providing an overview of some of the originators of house music like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy and how they pushed the sound at parties and on the radio, WBMX being the main station to do this. In addition to DJing, Mario was part of a party crew called UPC and helped organize and promote house events, underscoring how people often took on multiple rolls to help this movement grow.

Brandon Johnson, Steve Berumen, and Brett Starr

This kind of full ingratiation in the scene is still very much in practice today, and conversation participants Steve Berumen (a.k.a. Steve Synfull) and Brett Starr are perfect examples of this. Berumen first started DJing in 1997, is the founder of a monthly underground house night in Denver called HOUSE GUEST, and he is also Director of Design & Branding at SoCo Nightlife District. Starr has been a DJ for 20 years and plays music from across the spectrum of house music and has performed with legendary DJs, held multiple club residencies in several states, and has released original productions on a number of house labels. Both of them embody the dedication that has made house the touchstone for dance music today.

Brett Starr DJing after the conversation

The phrase “house is a feeling” came up multiple times during the talk, which is from the lyrics to a 1987 track called “My House” by Rhythm Control. This “feeling” represents acceptance and freedom to those who are often marginalized in society. The groundwork for the house scene was laid by the black, Latino, and gay communities in Chicago in a time when America was chanting “Disco Sucks!” and dance music and its cultural proponents were pushed back underground. But that dedication to the music never faded and today house (and many other genres of dance music) is more popular than ever. And while they are mainly disseminated digitally now, the flyer remains as the first point of contact from the promoter to the audience, and that flyer needs to be enticing enough to make someone want to buy a ticket and attend a show. Brandon said that title of the book, Beyond Heaven, represents what the flyer promises when you attend house event. It is the entry point to a night of musical bliss, “and when you feel it you will understand.”

Copies of Beyond Heaven: Chicago House Party Flyers from 1983-1989 can be purchased here

- Hayley Richardson

Dikeou Superstars: Chad Dawkins

Originality is difficult to define in a time when we are inundated with content that is quickly edited, rehashed, and spit back into the information cycle machines. Artists searching for inspiration can easily slip into a habit of unconscious mimicry, resulting in work lacking in authenticity. Instead of trying to “force” originality, Chad Dawkins critiques the concept through reproduction. His work Untitled, #149-168 at Dikeou Collection is a series of 20 graphite drawings on canvas that copy engravings of microscopic plant cell images from the 19thcentury. He describes the works as “handmade reproductions of mechanical reproductions of handmade reproductions of something viewed scientifically…” and through this ongoing process of reproduction, he concludes that “inevitably they are different” from their original counterparts.

Formally speaking, the work is subtle and minimal yet painstakingly detailed and spatial in its presentation. These discernable paradoxes underscore the circuitous meaning of the work where the question and the answer are one in the same. In his artist statement, Dawkins notes that he received the prints he copied from as a gift, and, in a somewhat symbolic vein of the work, he gifted the drawings to Devon Dikeou. They were originally exhibited at the Dikeou Pop-Up Space on Bannock Street from 2011 until 2013, and are currently on view at the main Dikeou Collection gallery on California Street in the same room as Nils Folke Anderson’s Untitled (California)styrofoam sculpture. This is a wonderful pairing because they both play with this idea of paradoxes. Themes of control vs spontaneity, consistency vs variety, and the idea that the finished piece(s) leave traces or ARE traces of what’s been play into both these artworks.

2009 ongoing
Wall: 2 Chad Dawkins Drawing that the Artist Curated into Her 11.1 Artpace Residency
The Drawings’ Language and Font Replicates the Message Found when Searching for Simmons’s Recordings on the Internet
Detail: Left, “It’s the Talk of the Town”; Right, “Round Midnight”

Dawkins’ reproduction drawings can also be seen in Dikeou’s installation Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys, a work which looks at great jazz musicians and whose names have been embossed into music history and those who have been glossed over, the focal figure being saxophonist Sonny Simmons. As a contribution to the installation, Dawkins created two drawings that copy an internet error message stating that Sonny Simmons’ music cannot be found at the requested server – a testament to the musician’s underrecognized place in the jazz pantheon.

Dawkins’ 2010 exhibition self-titled at Sala Diaz in San Antonio featured a reproduction of a photograph of painting, as well as a reproduction of the painting in the photograph. Dawkins stated, “Primarily, the exhibition assumes a conceptual role of a postmodern critique of the modernist tenets of object making, the cult of originality, and the sanctity of artist’s objects. Ultimately, these critiques, (at this point) being rooted in unoriginality, serve the purpose of testing their own validity.” The two phrases that stand out are “cult of originality” and “testing their own validity,” each coming off with a bit of a satirical eye-roll and a fair challenge in both the creation and critical response of art making. In the case of Untitled, #149-168, the viewer is never told that the drawings are reproductions, leaving them to assume that they are in fact original images. However, many are able to discern that they are depictions of something on a cellular level, and the originality of both the primary source and its replication are never questioned or argued.

-Hayley Richardson

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