Show Preview | Crossover

Denver, CO
Mike Wright Gallery, November 5-January 14, 2017

The original painting: Doug Kacena, Composite, oil, 30 x 48.

The original painting: Doug Kacena, Composite, oil, 30 x 48.

This story was featured in the November 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  November 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Contemporary abstract expressionist Doug Kacena jokes that he’s been trying to pin down the 30-second “elevator pitch” for his show Crossover, which opens November 5 at Mike Wright Gallery during Denver Arts Week. Indeed, a quick pitch would hardly scratch the surface of this trailblazing show and the deeper conversation it sparks about how people perceive and define art.

The exhibit unveils the fruits of Kacena’s daring, year-long endeavor to paint over and recontextualize the artwork of 12 of Colorado’s leading realist painters. Among those who surrendered their paintings—some valued at more than $30,000—are nationally renowned artists Quang Ho, Ron Hicks, Jeff Legg, Robert Spooner, David Santillanes, Jill Soukup, and Edward Aldrich. In exchange, Kacena sacrificed about 15 of his own gallery-ready abstract paintings to be reworked by the representational artists. As many as 30 recontextualized paintings are on view, accompanied by photos of the original pieces.

“Certainly there’s a shock value about the idea of painting over each other’s paintings,” says Kacena, “but that’s really the jumping-off point to get to some bigger themes about what this show is trying to talk about.” He’d like Crossover to bridge the gap between those who think, “Oh no—another landscape,” when viewing representational art, and those who say, “I just don’t get it,” in response to abstract art. “I hope people question why they identify with one art form or the other,” he says, “and look closer at these broader definitions of art.”

Throughout the project, it was important to Kacena—who is also the director of Evergreen Fine Art in Evergreen, CO—to honor the artists’ representational images while responding to them with his own paints, brushwork, and conceptual vision. “I wanted elements of what they do so well to still be present in the work,” he says.

Take, for example, STUDIO ARRANGEMENT by Robert Spooner, which Kacena altered into a new tour de force titled REFURBISHED FLORAL III. Kacena’s goal was to bring motion to Spooner’s centered, symmetrical composition. “I wanted to break up that visual space, refocus how your eye moves across it, and reposition the center of the composition, allowing some of the original colors to bounce through,” he says.

On the flip side, Spooner chose to re-contextualize Kacena’s painting RESOLUTE. “You have to think: ‘What are my boundaries?’” says Spooner about the process. “It’s not just a blank canvas I’m painting over. There has to be something left there that looks and feels like the original artist has done something.”

Spooner decided to rotate the painting 90 degrees and created “an atmospheric canyon” scene. “Doug sometimes leaves raw canvas there,” he says. “That’s a Doug thing. It’s his signature.” By turning the painting on its side, Spooner was able to retain some of Kacena’s blank canvas as white sky.

PBS documentary filmmaker David Schler filmed the entire project, including interviews with the artists that explore the “psychology of creating art,” says Kacena. The exhibit includes a 10-minute segment from the film that introduces the show’s concept.

For the artists involved, the project was an exercise in thinking outside the box and in letting go, notes Kacena. “An artist is very attached to their work in this way of pride of ownership, pride of creation, and they’re letting that go into somebody else’s hands to re-create,” he says. “I’m honored that these artists trusted me enough to do that with these really great pieces.” —Kim Agricola

contact information
303.590.9800
www.mikewrightgallery.com

This story was featured in the November 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  November 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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