Black Cube’s artist fellows have pushed the boundaries of the typical pop-up show in the past year by creating giant inflatables, using sites that included both Red Rocks and an entire house, and even questioning Denver’s housing displacement. Now artist fellow Jon P. Geiger has created "ROAM," a 26-foot-high neon sculpture featuring iconic elements of the American West, including five small neon tumbleweeds that will make it look like the piece is rolling.
“When I think of the West, there are just certain aspects that stick out to me, whether I’m thinking about Westerns or thinking back to what it was like to leave that area and come to the Midwest,” says Geiger, who is originally from Alamosa and is now based in Detroit. “There’s so much death, growth and decay wrapped up in the aesthetics of the West, but there’s also a lot of rawness and progress.”
Geiger says he’d been in touch with Cortney Stell, executive director and chief curator of Black Cube, since the nomadic contemporary museum was in its very initial stages. When she offered him a 2016 fellowship, the artist, who works mainly in ceramics, began toying with different ideas and materials he might work with. “I don’t stick to just one thing and say, ‘This is what this is,’" he explains. "I keep exploring.”
Ultimately, Geiger chose to work with neon. “In the early years neon, was used in high-end venues, and then over time it sank to the bottom and became this reflection of sad country songs [and] started being associated with seedy bars," he says. "I want 'ROAM' to remain neutral, highlighting the high points and low points of neon.”
Both the height and design of 'ROAM' were influenced by the billboard imagery of the American West, as well as other sights on its highways. “I think a lot about the drive down I-25 when I’d go home from school, and I’d notice that the billboards shrunk in size,” Geiger says. “I’m hoping to use the size that’s intuitively common on the highway when looking at 'ROAM.'”
The tumbleweed element to 'ROAM' developed over time, starting out looking “crumpled and crazy” but slowly taking shape. “The tumbleweed is this lonely and discarded thing that keeps on going,” Geiger explains. “It’s this nothingness with value. I want 'ROAM' to have a sense of venture and wanderlust.”
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While 'ROAM' is a site-specific project, Geiger says his Black Cube fellowship pushed him to design the sculpture for a variety of locations. It will debut this weekend on the grass across from a pond at Marjorie Park at Fiddler's Green, in partnership with the Museum of Outdoor Arts, where it will remain until August 8. A rooftop at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design will be home to 'ROAM' from August 20 through October 17, and then Black Cube will move the sculpture to an undetermined location in Boulder.
A free opening reception for 'ROAM' will run from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 11, at Fiddler's Green, and will include musical performances, food trucks, and beer from Breckenridge Brewery. Visit blackcubeart.org for more information.