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100 Colorado Creatives: Adam Lerner

100 Colorado Creatives: Adam Lerner
Photo by Richard Peterson.

#4: Adam Lerner

There's not much one can say about Adam Lerner that would truly do him justice. He runs MCA Denver with nothing resembling an iron hand: He's funny, impossibly smart, steeped in culture and a natty dresser, and he has a knack for surrounding himself with people of the same ilk. And he's made MCA, as he did the Lab at Belmar before it, a friendlier place where the intellectual processes of looking at and understanding art become both fun and more directly challenging. We're lucky to have Lerner at the helm of Denver's handsome contemporary-art palace, where serendipitous programming brings lightness to the work of appreciating art. Amen. Read on to see where Lerner is at and where he's going.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Nora Burnett Abrams

Adam Lerner with his object of fascination, Mark Mothersbaugh.
Adam Lerner with his object of fascination, Mark Mothersbaugh.
Richard Peterson

If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

I would want to work with P.T. Barnum because he liked doing outrageous things. I'd also maybe involve Congress. The way I imagine it, I'd turn to P.T. and say something like, "What if, instead of having boring grey streets and roadways, we painted them in interesting patterns and fabulous colors?" And he would be like, "Yeah, and what if the storefronts of all shops were aquariums?" And Congress would say, "You know, we can make that the law." And then there would be unanimous bipartisan support for it.

 

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

Right now, Mark Mothersbaugh occupies every point of the compass for me. From before he co-founded the band DEVO to this very minute, he has been making art and music with boundless imagination and energy. And there is one lesson that I take from everything he makes, from his outlandish musical contraptions to zany cartoons. I believe he is saying that, given all the rules and limitations that we establish for each other and ourselves, and all the damage that's been done to us and we've done to ourselves, our task is to attempt to transform whatever we can of all of that into something we can call our art. Then, we have found our voice and may even be able to find our greatness. Denver audiences will get to discover that lesson for themselves when my exhibition of Mothersbaugh's career work opens on Halloween 2014.

Continue reading for more from Adam Lerner.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Cheese. I know it is a long, sacred tradition, but I hope to never see another rubbery piece of cheese served at an art opening.

What's your day job?

I don't have a day job. Wait, I only have a day job. Whichever it is, I run a museum.

 

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

First, I would buy a small Alexander Calder mobile, which I've always wanted. Then, I would realize my plan for a massive art parade down 15th Street in Denver, a contemporary art version of Mardi Gras, where art students would work throughout the year creating spectacular floats, indie composers would compose music for high school marching bands, and performance artists would develop mile-long performance pieces. Then, downtown Denver hotels would be filled a year in advance with international artists coming to town to be a part of the annual event.

 

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Most importantly, make rents low enough in urban neighborhoods for artists to afford to live and work there. The only real way to ensure low rents is to increase crime, but I'm not sure if that's viable in this political climate. May have to just provide subsidized housing.

Continue reading for more from Adam Lerner.

Senga Nengudi, Untitled, 2011. Nylon, mesh, sand and mixed media, 60 x 72 x 8 in. Khanna Family Collection, India.
Senga Nengudi, Untitled, 2011. Nylon, mesh, sand and mixed media, 60 x 72 x 8 in. Khanna Family Collection, India.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

John Hickenlooper.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

Pretty much the same as last year: oversee about ten exhibitions and over fifty public programs at the museum, give a few dozen lectures and public talks, have about 250 lunch meetings and write one book.

 

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?

Senga Negudi is a Colorado artist recognized by museums all around the world. Denver audiences will have the opportunity to see her work this Spring at both RedLine and MCA Denver with our partner exhibitions.

Learn more about exhibitions and programs at MCA Denver online.

Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.