Something big is coming to Denver. It will tower over some buildings, and be seen from blocks away. It will be blue, and it will be startling. At first glance, it will look familiar — but you may need a few minutes to place exactly where you've seen it before. This morning, Black Cube nomadic museum will debut its second pop-up exhibit across the street from the Colorado State Capitol. Artist Chad Person has created a forty-foot tall inflatable monument depicting Stinky Pete the Prospector from Toy Story 2.
“The 'Prospector' is part of an ongoing series of inflatable sculptures that I’ve been working on for quite a few years,” Person says.”It’s the largest one I’ve ever done, and I’m really grateful to Black Cube for having the opportunity to create this [monument] together.”
Person will tell you that he wears several hats. He will tell you that some days he is an artist, often focused on creating giant inflatable monuments, similar to “gorillas used during big sales at used car lots,” that act as corporate mascots on the verge of losing their promise as social or cultural icons. Other days, he is a small business owner and an entrepreneur who is fascinated by technology; Person is one of three owners of Bowtie, a small software company. It was on a day when Person put on his “technologist” hat that he began thinking of his approach to a Black Cube proposal.
“I’m encouraged and inspired by forward progress, and I’m excited by the city's investment in entrepreneurship, creation of value and creation of wealth,” Person says. "This city as a whole is booming. This also got me thinking about mining.”
In doing his research on Denver and how his piece represents his interpretation of the city, Person began likening Denver to Toy Story 2. "Prospector," his Black Cube pop-up exhibit, is a tribute to Colorado’s gold-mining history and the real estate and technology trends here. And the Prospector fits right in.
“Toy Story 2 is tells the story a few years after Woody’s Round Up, when the world has moved on,” Person explains. “Stinky Pete tries to regain his relevancy by becoming a villain, scrambling to regain prowess and value of who is he is and why.”
The 1999 release of Toy Story 2 was the “beginning of the burst of the last tech bubble,” Person says, referring to Steve Jobs’ influence on PIxar: The film company was run in part by a technologist at a time when the software world was collapsing around him. Person sees a connection between Denver’s American entrepreneurial spirit and the world of digital commerce, all of which influenced his decision to create "Prospector."
“There’s so many layers to this amazing monument,” Person says. “I hope to use this very-loaded character to display on some level the optimism that I feel for my presence in Denver and everything the city is investing in as a whole.”
Person is using the Black Cube container to store the monument during transportation, since "Prospector" easily folds into a compact space. He has also created box sets of "Prospector" to be sold in the museum' pop-up gift shop.
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“Because I had to create these commodities, it led me to a new way of working on the monument,” Person says. “Normally when I make these, I use a physical model and then send it out to be replicated into something giant. But Black Cube led to me building a completely digital model of the monument.”
The collectible box sets will include a certificate of authenticity and a signed replica of the base of the monumen; Person says he cannot legally sell the top piece of the monument, as he does not have rights to the imagery from Pixar. Instead, he has uploaded the 3-D file to his website and it is available for free to download. If taken to a 3-D printer, the miniature monument can be easily assembled, he notes.
"Prospector" opens to the public on Wednesday, October 21, in the Time Park parking lot on Grant Street, across from the Capitol. Black Cube is partnering with Dikeou Pop Up Colfax to host an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, October 22, near the monument. You can view "Prospector" for free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information, visit blackcubeart.org.