By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
Andenken originally opened in the Raven's Nest studio complex. But despite a spectacular gallery space and an interesting -- if light -- schedule of exhibitions, virtually no one noticed. The problem was Raven's Nest itself, which is in an obscure location on the edge of Lincoln Park and usually not open to the public. These are two nearly insurmountable limitations to launching a new business of any kind, let alone an ambitious enterprise with a doubtful future in even the best of locations and circumstances -- as any new gallery is.
Mather and Tata thus decided to relocate earlier this year to Patrick Ryan's GOOG design center on Santa Fe Drive, where the normal stock in trade is custom furniture. Andenken occupied the front of the large outfit, with GOOG in the spacious back offices and workshop. But a desire to have their own space led them to lease the early-twentieth-century Spray Building in the Ballpark Neighborhood. This building, which Mather says originally housed a coffee and tea distributor, is just a block east of Coors Field.
The Ballpark Neighborhood, which is nearly half surface parking lots, has mostly languished, in stark contrast to booming LoDo, just across 20th Street. (Had LoDo not been named a Denver historic district, which protects the existing buildings, it would look just like the Ballpark Neighborhood -- which may get its own historic designation soon, if neighborhood activists get their way.) Since it's only a few blocks from LoDo, however -- one of the city's prime areas for art venues -- any gallery that moves into the Ballpark area is afforded instant high-profile status and cachet.
Over the years, this fact has enticed several gallery owners to the district. Among these were two who, like Mather and Tata, had the vision and resources needed to make a genuine run for the top. But both of those galleries are now unfortunately gone. The Round World Gallery, which was open for just over a year, featured work on the secondary market by big-name artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. After that was Guiry's, the city's oldest art- and painting-supply chain, which opened a gallery in association with its downtown store. That gallery did some wonderful shows focusing on emerging local artists. But even though the retail portion of Guiry's is still going strong, the gallery portion closed down last year in response to sluggish sales.
Both of these places tried to join the ranks of Denver's top commercial galleries, an elite corps of about a half-dozen that, based on the quality of their exhibits, dominate the city's contemporary scene. To some extent, both galleries entered those ranks. But each also failed to run in the black.
Now it's Andenken's turn at bat in the neighborhood, and hopefully it will succeed where the others failed. There's every reason to believe it will. The Spray Building comprises some 12,000 square feet, and though just about half of it is devoted to studio spaces, what remains easily makes it the largest private gallery in the region. This grand showroom is an indication of the financial resources behind it. The gallery has secured a five-year lease on the place.
Plus, Mather is a fairly gutsy guy, and based on his past experiences, opening a high-end gallery is a walk in the park. He's the former lead singer for the punk-rock band Won Lump Some. The band traveled a national circuit of college-town gigs, and its album, Clean Hit, got as high as number four on Rolling Stone's alternative album chart. The beginning of the end, however, came when Mather was arrested in Fort Collins for appearing nude on stage. It was a harmless gesture not unlike the kind of thing those guys from Blink-182 or The Red Hot Chili Peppers have done innumerable times. But what flies in Los Angeles doesn't necessarily fly in Fort Collins, and Mather was sent to jail. Worse yet, he had to call his parents and tell them about it.
When he wasn't taking off his clothes and singing, though, Mather was painting, and that's what ultimately led him to the decision to forsake his music career in favor of art. Mather is the gallery's director, and Tata runs the studio.
The unusual gallery name, Andenken, comes from the German language. Tata, whose mother is from Germany, grew up speaking German as well as English. "Andenken refers both to a memento of a trip or experience, or a gift, or to the memories triggered by such an object," Mather explains. "For example, your friend gives you a gift, and later, when you look at it, it inspires you to remember that friend. Both the gift and the memory may be described as Andenken."
The inaugural presentation in the new building is Andenken Group Show, an exhibit with a title as open-ended as its content. Mather has put together a free-associational mélange in which a wide variety of styles are seen simultaneously. Had the gallery been any smaller, or had Mather installed it more densely, the show wouldn't work as a coherent whole. It succeeds, though, because regardless of how discordant Mather's comparisons are, the individual pieces, for the most part, hold their own.