Daniel Libeskind's ideas for Denver's Civic Center are off the wall (see review,) but equally bizarre -- though in a positive way -- is the launching of the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar (404 South Upham, 303-742-1520) with an opening on Saturday, September 16, from 2 to 9 p.m. Called the Lab for short, the place aims to showcase vanguard art in Lakewood. You know Lakewood -- the suburb where art shows are censored and geography teachers are suspended for displaying foreign flags, where big boxes in the form of Wal-Marts and Six Flags Over Jesus-style churches dot the housing developments? My guess is that we won't be seeing anything controversial at the Lab, especially since Lakewood's mayor, Steve Burkholder, a registered Republican, sits on its board.
Belmar, or FauxDo, as I like to call it, is being developed by Continuum Partners and is meant to serve as Lakewood's downtown. It's one of those new-urbanist developments that combines shopping, housing and offices in the atmosphere of an ersatz city neighborhood.
The Lab was created in partnership with the Denver Art Museum, where its director, Adam Lerner, was a master teacher in the department of modern and contemporary art. It's funded through a complicated setup, including from parking-meter change.
The Lab might be found amid McDonald's and Bed, Bath & Beyonds, but Lerner sees it as being, figuratively speaking, somewhere between McSweeney's and Burning Man. Actually, it's above Zales on the second floor of a building at Alaska and Upham streets, with a custom interior (pictured) by Hagy Belzberg.
For the opening, Lerner has lined up Fantôme Afrique, a three-screen film by British artist Isaac Julien. In it, Julien focuses on the cinema culture of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The title is a play on L'Afrique FantÃ´me, a famous 1930s book by surrealist and ethnographer Michel Leiris. Julien's intention is to show how Western culture has affected Africa, which is the opposite of what Leiris was doing. The images of dancers, buildings and movies set to a hard-driving soundtrack are hypnotic and lyrical. Less than twenty minutes long, it will run on a continuous loop projected onto one of the walls.
FantÃ´me Afrique runs through December 30 at the Lab.