Project Colfax is a stunning new urban-art installation created at the former Denver Car Wash at Williams Street and East Colfax Avenue, a project involving the paint, sweat and tears of thirty local and national artists. The site is currently owned by Kentro Properties, and the future fate of Project Colfax is unknown. But in the meantime, what a great canvas! The roof-less structure features the work of sixteen artists on the outside, along with several dispersed stacks of brick with wheat-pastes; another twenty artists specializing in graffiti have adorned the inside.
"The Colfax Business Improvement District is trying to change some of the walkability for Colfax, art-wise," explains Project Colfax curator Yiannis Bellis. "Do some things that haven't been done in the past. They want to give all artists a kind of a platform, including teens from East and the homeless — and the start of that is this car wash. In this case, Kentro had this beautiful canvas, the interior was basically virgin walls, and that's very rare. You don't get that in the city very often. So the goal was to give new gallery artists, graffiti writers a voice. Not just for the established artists, but for every artist."
Meet the artists of Project Colfax:
A passionate, multi-modal Denver artist, Yiannis Bellis has created an intense, three-dimensional evil-eye piece for Project Colfax that peers into your soul with pupils that pop off the concrete. "Every artist has a language," he says. "My language is the evil eye; my language is sacred geometry, as well. I'm a big fan of texture, so all my work has a three-dimensional element." Thanks to his relationship with Kentro Properties, Bellis was able to secure this spot for Project Colfax, then helped to curate the artists who would work on the exterior walls and make this grand vision a reality. He views it as a collaborative effort with all his friends in the city, and recognizes how lucky Denver is to have this rare canvas on the city's most infamous street. Find out more about his work.
Le Creep, aka Orgie, is an internationally acclaimed street artist who calls Miami home. Le Creep brought a little of the Basel heat to his mural for Project Colfax: "Out of Character." The artist created this piece on the east-facing wall of the car wash in just a day, before he headed off to ski in the Rocky Mountains. Merci, Le Creep.
Denver artist Ioanna Kyriazi has created three stunning, realist, pencil-drawn pieces for Project Colfax. The one pictured above is "Lost in Sleep," translated from Greek, and dates from Kyriazi's time living abroad. Kyriazi also pasted "Ocean Flower" on a pile of bricks in front. The site also has a tiger wheat-paste by Kyriazi, taken from a larger mural: a brightly colored commission painted at a private art studio in Platt Park.
Mike Graves is not clowning around in Denver's outdoor art scene: This man is everywhere. Here Graves has taken the absurdity of a circus and translated it onto the concrete canvas with the help of friend and fellow artist Gamma Gallery. This is just one of the great pieces Graves has created recently; we also loved his enormous giraffes at Colorado Crush 2015 as well as the piece featured in our best new murals of Spring 2015. And it looks like 2016 will be just as impressive.
Colorado Creative Gamma combined forces with Mike Graves to paint (and sculpt) the dope mural "Gamma and Graves on Colfax." Gamma began his art career with stone and concrete work, and here got permission to carve a hand reaching out from the heavens and grabbing the wall. He also painted a second piece of art for Project Colfax (pictured above) that is receiving national recognition. It depicts DeMarcus Ware as "The Hulk" — and since it was painted before the AFC championship win, consider it good luck.
Koko Bayer is the granddaughter of legendary modern artist Herbert Bayer, best known in Denver for his "Articulated Wall," as well as an artist herself. She is breathing new life into her grandfather's pieces and has reimagined them as wheat-pastes that seem to peer straight into your soul. "Head + Heart + Hand" refers to Kandinsky's artist's journey: Creation goes from your mind to your eye and head to conceptualize it, then to your heart because you have to feel it, and then finally your hand — the part of your body that makes the piece come to life. Also a photographer, Koko Bayer has been documenting street art and Denver subculture with her father, Herbert's son, for as long as she can remember. The piece pictured above was the cover of one of Herbert's books; blue was his favorite color. It's exciting to see his work made easily accessible again and not hidden behind museum walls.
"It's been such a great project with so many amazing people involved," says Jesse Frazier, aka Faim, who has adorned Project Colfax with his wild, imaginative and surreal pop-art mural. It's his first piece ever of this magnitude — he'd mostly done wheat-pastes and slaps before — and the clean lines and overall composition overall breathtaking. See two more pieces by Frazier — a wheat-paste titled "Space Gorilla" and another called "Visible Man" — on bricks stacked in the lot.
Dread, aka Robin Munro, is a graffiti veteran and the man behind the largest outdoor art event in the state, Colorado Crush. "There are certain defining moments in our life, this was one of those for a friend of mine," explains Munro of the content of his mural. "It's not every day one discovers something that truly makes your heart sing, what a joyous experience." The most amazing thing about Munro is the speed at which he can work, creating a masterpiece in sometimes just an hour or two. And oh, snap, we love his Project Colfax mural.
With "Good Beauty," Ravi Zupa has created one of the most literary, political, existential yet accessible pieces we've seen in Denver. He's become an internationally renowned artist over the last several years, so Denver's lucky to have work by Zupa on the street for all to see.
Chris Haven, a participant in Artopia 2015, demonstrates his playful characters mixed with contemporary style on Project Colfax, where you can see the dogs chained to "the void" with a rainbow surrounding. Haven also has many pieces in the interior of the space, many of them done in collaboration with his girlfriend, Girlie.
The first outdoor mural by Ark Artiste is a knockout. "Walmart Girl" has a "no trespassing" sign sitting right above it, and passerbys are loving the smiley-faced, free-the-nipple armed guards in heels. Ark Artiste explains it as, "A statement on how the American ideal of freedom has been exploited to the point of being out of control. Sex in the media, consumerism and violence are my targets here more than a commentary on gender or feminist issues." The bold juxtaposition of cool and warm tones in a feminine-but-badass manner make us excited to see more from this Denver artist.
"Bowie was a living piece of art; it only seemed right to make a work based on him," says Mario Zoots. "I'm trying to stop thinking of art works as objects — instead, I want them to be triggers for experiences." Project Colfax was lucky to get the work of this busy Denver artist; when Zoots isn't creating new and innovative ways to experience his artwork, he's DJing at events like the "Art of the Makers," opening for DeVotchka at the Denver Art Museum last month. Bold in some corners and understated in others, Zoots walks the fine line between classic methods and contemporary mixed-media obsession. "Spending a cold afternoon on Colfax putting up a 10x10 wheatpaste of Bowie was definitely an experience I won't soon forget," he says.
Axel Geittmann's piece for Project Colfax,"Ultimum Solem," is like an acid trip gone right — oh, so right. His black-and-white, complex illustration seems so cohesive with the surrounding piece by Paige Madden, you'd think they'd planned it.
An artist who hails from Sedalia, Madden has her first outdoor painting at Project Colfax. It's a common, colorful thread between murals by Zoots, Geittman and Zupa. When you see the piece in person, notice how the hands grow in size as the mural moves.
Denver artist Sandra Fettingis is currently in the second year of a residency at RedLine. Along with resurrecting a monumental sculpture piece earlier this month, Colorado Creative Fettingis put her geometric signature on Project Colfax.
Continue reading to see ten more artists who painted in the interior of Project Colfax.
Mike Giant, who moved to Boulder last year, may be the best-known graffiti artist involved with Project Colfax. He's a legendary graff and tattoo artist, featured recently in a Pharrell and Major Lazer video.
Emit is one of the most highly respected graffiti artists in the city, and curated the interior of Project Colfax, where he has two unbelievably fresh pieces, both freehand and seemingly three-dimensional. Part of the DF crew, Emit says he's been "writing on things since 1989."
The talented graffiti artist in cahoots with N'Spire has her work cut out for her— and is killing it. Girlie created tags all over the inside space.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Baby Dolls by a mystery artist
The city is abuzz over the identity of the artist/artists who created these creepy/beautiful baby doll faces that seem to stare down on Colfax like they have seen it all. The faces aren't just here; they've been popping up all over town, symbolizing innocence and so much more. We'll let you know when we find out who's behind the contemplative installations.