Artbeat: Memory Trips shines a light on the civil-rights era

Around the corner from the bustling Santa Fe Drive art district is a funky two-room operation called Dark Energy Art Space (860 West Eighth Avenue, 303-719-0021, www.darkenergyartspace.com). The brainchild of emerging sculptor Ryan Raudonis, Dark Energy is a co-op of sorts, with a handful of other artists involved. Among that group is University of Colorado Denver student Dan Ellier Chapman, whose solo, Memory Trips, is on view right now.

Most of the work on display was done in the past year or so, but there are also several pieces that Chapman did more than ten years ago. These are in the form of elaborately done ink drawings — notably, a set of four that are collectively titled "Bred/Not Born." These pieces take up the topic of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, with images of Dr. Martin Luther King as well as a Klansman, among others.

Most of the more recent pieces are done in oil on canvas and are essentially portraits. In "Joe & Paul" (pictured), Chapman captures the full-figure double portrait of a pair of Latino men. There's an on-the-street quality to the imagery, and that's an approach seen in a number of the paintings here. Chapman's best-known work is the fabulous "Jake, East Colfax," which is the featured painting in the show.

The most unusual piece in Memory Trips, one that puts a new spin on the portrait tradition, is "Arrival/Leaves," a DVD set to original music that was specially created for it by Joe Lessard, a member of the local group Head for the Hills. The DVD starts out with an abstraction that in a few minutes resolves itself into the face of a man. To make it, Chapman spent a day gathering fallen leaves of different colors. Using a line drawing on the floor, he arranged the leaves into the form of a face, and then he and a friend used leaf blowers to blow the leaves away. The whole thing was filmed from a camera on the ceiling. The video runs backward so the face comes together instead of falling apart.

Memory Trips runs through September 30.

 
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