Karl Marx has been quoted — not quite accurately — as calling religion the "opiate for the masses." If art is your religion, you'll want to overdose on Opiates for the Masses, a new show at Helikon Gallery that's guest-curated by Myah and Scott Bailey, the busy duo who own Sally Centigrade gallery.
In Helikon's two years of trail-blazing at 3675 Wynkoop Street, the gallery has shown a wide range of local and national artists specializing in illustrative work. Helikon director Cayce Goldberg is the third generation of his family to be in business on this street, and Helikon is on the very block where his family first opened shop in 1919.
"Helikon gallery has only been around for two years," he explains. "My family built this warehouse in 1974 and this was a garage where they worked on the equipment for our other family business, which was lumber and demolition. That business opened in 1919 right up the road there. RTD had purchased it from us for light-rail development and we used that money to redo this space. So this is the only property my family has left in Denver after a hundred years." Goldberg and his brother Charlie, also an artist, acquired and redid the warehouse just as RiNo began to take off as an artists' hub. But after the recent growth, he says, "It is is unrecognizable. I can't even see it as the same place."
Helikon's large, front gallery space offered possibilities that the Baileys could never realize at the small Sally Centrigrade. Working with Goldberg, they were able to create a street artist-centered show that Myah had been thinking about for a while. "I had this thought that a lot of people want street art or murals in their house but they can’t get that," she explains. "Some people can never find art that they see when they're walking around RiNo; you can’t find it anywhere. The idea was to get people who don't necessarily do galleries often, so that their fans could get a piece to take to their house."
All of the artists featured in Opiates have their roots in urban art: Work by Lauren Y.S. Illustration, Jet Martinez, Mark Penner-Howell, AmandaLynn, Dirty Bandits, Dread, Gamma Acosta, Robert Bowen, Hollis + Lana, Sandra Fettingis, Elle and Kelly Ording will be on display.
"It's an interesting selection of artists," says Goldberg. "Some are what you would consider street artists, but some are fine artists. We gave them total creative freedom. They pick the wall, pick the size, and do whatever they want to do.” The results are stunning — and often surprising, reflecting the often-accidental aesthetics of street art itself.
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Opiates for the Masses runs February 3 through February 24 at Helikon Gallery. The smaller space in the back of Helikon will simultaneously feature The New Masters of DADA by Naomi Haverland.