Artist Clark Richert’s fascinating history began with a stint at the Drop City commune near Trinidad in the late 1960s, where his interest in the theories of Buckminster Fuller played out in the formation of geodesic domes and, eventually, in the direction of his painting style, an ever-growing dialectic informed by subtly imperfect geometrics somehow coming together in space on a flat surface. Later settling in Boulder, ground zero for the subsequent Criss-Cross art movement and cooperative, Richert has more recently gone on to become a mentor to new generations of artists at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. But he still paints his confoundingly beautiful odes to science in art, recalling a freer time when a DIY movement took root in Colorado. Here are Richert’s answers, in the here and now, to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Clark Richert: At the end of the last millennium, a question circulating in the art world was: “Who is the most important artist of the last 1,000 years?" Some said Picasso, Duchamp, etc. My answer was Leonardo Da Vinci. Although I consider the Mona Lisa to be overrated, I love Leonardo’s drawings, which dealt with art, engineering and scientific issues. My thinking is that such issues are valid subject matter for art-making, and I deal with such subject matter in my own work.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Too many to name here, but a couple of stellar examples are Olafur Eliasson and Kara Walker. Among “generalists,” I am especially interested in Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City, because he addresses the burning issues such as climate change with his potentially solar-powered electric cars.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I think all art trends are good, but a seemingly new trend I see hope for is art that is “contemplative,” as opposed to being driven by “spectacle.”
What's your day job?
I’m still teaching art at RMCAD.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
In the 1960s, friends and I started an artists' community, Drop City, in southern Colorado. Our official mission was to provide housing, food and studio space for artists. It worked surprisingly well for about three years. Ever since then, I have wanted to initiate another such community — an environmentally sound, sustainable and affordable community that provides an intellectual support system for artists, writers, filmmakers and other creatives. I don't mean rental space, but a place that artists can invest in and own, establishing their permanent residences.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
For many years my answer was, “I stay here because of the climate.” But in recent years, I have appreciated the growing creative community. The main challenge today is the cost of living — if there is to be a new artist community in Colorado, it will require lower property costs (or some kind of subsidy to allow that) and more flexible zoning and building codes that allow innovative approaches to architecture.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Beyond supporting an artists' co-housing community, we need an art publication like THE magazine in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A serious online publication would be better than nothing, but a print publication would have even more visibility, resonance and credibility. This could be sponsored by the city or the state.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I hate to play favorites — there are a lot of young, highly creative types working in Colorado today, such as the artists at TANK studios and Leisure Gallery. Four creative forces are Rule and Gildar galleries, Bruce Price and Mark Sink. I’m also very interested in the structural work of Paul Hildebrandt of the ZomeTool company. But if I have to pick just one Colorado Creative, I’ll say TANK artist Margaret Neumann.
My art goal is to continue my ongoing quest of the last thirty years to depict in paintings, prints and animation structural shadows (or projections) from higher dimensions. And I am determined to continue to pursue the idea of affordable live-work space for artists, writers and filmmakers, probably in the context of an artists’ co-housing community.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I expect to see emerging young artists and art-support people get some attention, such as graduates from RMCAD, TANK and Leisure Gallery artists. Some names: Dmitri Obergfell, Gretchen Schaefer, Zach Reini, Cortney Stell, Joseph Coniff….
See old and new works by Clark Richert in the solo exhibition Close Packed Structures, running through December 23 at Gildar Gallery. Learn more about Richert online.