As I walk through the glass doors still decaled with the FAC Modern's red square logo, my footsteps echo around the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' new Gallery of Contemporary Art 121 — or GOCA 121. It's late January, and only one of the three installations slated for the Feb. 5 inaugural show is near completion. The space feels, and mostly is, empty.
But interim director Caitlin Green, just back from guiding an art tour in London, wears a smile that betrays no worry of an expiring time-frame in which to re-purpose the venue. In fact, she's outwardly enthusiastic about her potential to soon contribute to downtown's art scene. Her first exhibit is aptly titled POINT A: a place to start.
"We have this incredible space on campus that has had wonderful exhibitions for 30 years now, but let's face it — campus isn't the easiest place to negotiate," Green says. "Parking's difficult, and you can't just walk across the street and go out to dinner afterwards."
As announced after the closure of the FAC Modern's final show in November, Nor'wood Development Group — which owns the Plaza of the Rockies and had gifted its 121 S. Tejon St. space to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center — is turning it over to UCCS.
"There's just endless opportunity here," says Green, a Springs native. "I think people here are curious and they want to see [GOCA 121], and they're excited about new ideas. I don't think you could want for a better thing in a community than people that are curious — still critical, but curious."
The small reveal
For POINT A, Green asked three artists to design installations to fit assigned spaces within the gallery. The one installation that's nearly complete, a pair of sculptures by Corey Drieth titled "Over-Joy" and "Big Fat," jazz up one GOCA 121 room with glitz and glamour — and still give off a deep emptiness.
Drieth, a 40-year-old art professor at UCCS — who displayed paintings at the Fine Arts Center's Colorado Springs Abstracts show last year — says his installation explores his ambivalence toward popular culture.
"Like many people today, I often feel disgusted by its excess," he says. "But when I am honest with myself, I am also fascinated by it and find much of it to be attractive, if not downright beautiful."
Bursts of color, movement and noise, he says, are like candy for the senses, and Drieth's spaces "sparkle and shine." At the same time, though, he aims to make them "subtly malevolent or sad." For instance, in "Over-Joy," metallic turquoise hula streamers zig and zag, hang and fall limp in post-party destruction.
"Used decorations both define absence and begin to take over and inhabit it," Drieth says. "They become an exhausted memory of the original excessive festivities and a living and dying system that fills the exhausted, empty space."
You will be judged
Navigating your path through DeLane Bredvik's "Emerge" is something of a microcosm of finding your way through society.
Fourteen 9-by-3-foot cheesecloth panels, each with a painted figure silhouetted in blue and masked in casts of resin and broken glass, will hang in staggered rows. During the gallery opening, actors — comprising a Greek chorus — will stand in front of each panel and speak directly to viewers. In fact, to get to Point A's third installation, you'll have to walk right past them, absorbing what they have to say.
"In Greek drama, the chorus is the voice of society that would condemn or encourage or comment on the action of the individual characters," explains Bredvik, a 44-year-old, locally based artist who's recently shown at the Smokebrush Gallery and at the multimedia Flaunt: Evolution exhibition. "One of the subtexts of this piece is my being a gay man. I have always been held up to a standard and pressured to be something which I never could. ... For me, it was a larger-than-life ideal.
"This chorus of these 14 eight-foot-tall figures, for me, represents something which I could never attain. I think most people feel that kind of pressure growing up or even as adults. It's like, this is what society expects of you."
To create each silhouetted character on the panels, he manipulated photos of himself in the standing position to fit the perfect human proportions laid out by ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.
"Working my figure into the ideal proportion was an interesting exercise," he says, "and again reaffirmed my individuality as well as the distance I am from the ideal."
Los Angeles-based Izumi Yokoyama, who responded to GOCA's call to artists, says she enjoys watching each season's theatrical scenes: "cherry-blossom petals swirling in spring, lightning bugs dancing around in summer, red leaves softly fluttering down in fall, and snowfall in winter."
Inspired by "nature's ephemeral and fantastic phenomena" and "the social activities that engage with them," her installation, "Kamakura," depicts a childhood pastime that's since become uncommon.
"Growing up in the northwest part of Japan, where snow was my playground, I have always dreamt of building kamakura, an igloo-like snow house," she says. "Neighbors used to gather together to build snow houses for their children. They lit candles inside snow houses as kids sang songs and ate their favorite rice cakes inside."
"Kamakura" will be large enough for most people to walk into, while stump-shaped sculptures with many small balls suspended around them should create a wintry scene. All will be constructed with white fabric and connected by white yarn.
The intimate room hosting "Kamakura" was once used by the FAC Modern to display a sculpture to passers-by, but has never been open to the public. Natural light from a wall of west-facing windows will transform the look of the installation through the course of the day. The most dramatic change will come as the sun sets, when small solar LED lights inside the hanging white balls make them shine softly.
As for the dramatic change to the space as a whole, Green says that beyond projects like these that physically transform the environment, she has a diverse lineup for GOCA 121 that includes more traditional artwork, like black-and-white photography. She also hopes to bring live music and poetry slams to the space.
"It's all over the page," she says.