Colorado Creatives

Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Bryan Leister

#20: Bryan Leister

Artist Bryan Leister, a painter who’s graduated to new media and rethinks visual outcomes using code, installation, video-game technology and animation, can’t be pinned down — it’s a new, digital world out there, and Leister wants to be a part of it, by hook or crook. This is work that is going places, diving under the flat surface of imagery into new dimensions of expression. What’s the next level for Bryan Leister? Learn more in his answers to the 100 Colorado Creatives questionnaire.

Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Bryan Leister: When I heard this question, I immediately thought of artists that I admire, but then I realized many of those artists did not really collaborate with other artists. In collaborating, I would want a back-and-forth sharing of ideas to arrive at something greater than could be accomplished as an individual. 

This leads me into the world of design and people like Dieter Rams, Charles and Ray Eames and Herbert Bayer. I would like to collaborate on solving a design problem, arriving at an elegant, useful and beautiful solution. The form would not be dictated by a visual style, but arrived at through a process of eliminating what is not needed or useful.

This is very different from what I admire in art, which is an individual worldview that makes me stop and think about what I am looking at. So, I guess the idea of collaboration for me is to put aside the individual and collectively create a work. 

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

I am very interested in the work of Francis Alÿs. I was initially attracted to his video work through an installation I saw in Miami. It was a very powerful dual-screen projection called “Re-enactment” and dealt with gun culture in Mexico. It was a startling and powerful installation and very simple in its concept and execution. As I have looked more deeply into his work, I am impressed with his ability to take an “action” that starts out quietly, but sort of ripples out to become this monumental statement. Sort of like a stone thrown into a pond, what he does just resonates and ripples outward. For example, one series started with him stepping on a crack and a sidewalk, and just thinking about that and ruminating on it through drawings and animations.

I find his work very poetic conceptually and his ability to easily move between diverse media amazing. I work in a wide variety of media as well, and can appreciate the effort that is involved to do it well.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

I’m sort of afraid of this question. If I am not doing it in my own work, I probably have a good friend who is! I would say, as a “new media” artist, I am a bit tired of “glitch art” — that is, work that exposes problems or glitches in electronic media. However, as I say this, one of the best performances I have ever experienced was by Jon Satrom, a code-based artist. Jon exposed programming glitches with Mac OSX to produce an amazing live performance at the Emmanuel Gallery’s Performance Art Week this spring.

I think what I mean is seeing the same kind of glitch art, and not really getting why we need to see this again. So, yes, if it’s been done, let’s try to move on and do something new.

What's your day job?

I’m an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver, where I teach art and design.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

I would pay off my mortgage and then spend my time creating new work. I am currently fortunate enough to have a job that does allow significant time to produce work, which I will be doing during the next year while I am on sabbatical.

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

I heard a LA-based critic say this at a RedLine event – Denver really needs a critical voice in the arts. We are a very close community and very supportive of each other in the arts here in Denver. We all know each other and are warm and friendly in that Colorado way. But friends do not make good critics, and as a result, we are not getting that competitiveness that you might find in larger cities. However, maybe this is what makes us unique – a supportive atmosphere where people are free to explore without fear of judgement.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Right now I really enjoy Amber Cobb’s work. She just has a lightness and humor to her work that I really admire.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I am on sabbatical for a year and will be 100 percent focused on creating new work. I am looking at residencies abroad and some locally as well. In terms of my work, I have always worked with code for interactive installations, but I am diving more deeply into the video-game art and aesthetic. I have learned to code over the past couple of years, and I now consider code my natural medium. I have not explored the visual aesthetic of game design and art as much, but would like to focus on developing work that exploits the genre. 

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2015?

I think Andy Rising is doing some interesting things during his residency at RedLine. His work crosses into many different media, including performance in a way that really feels like Colorado.

Reflections, an installation by Bryan Leister, is on view at Ironton Studios and Gallery through June 27. Leister’s work will also be featured in the back room at Walker Fine Art June 26 through September 5. Learn more about Bryan Leister online. 

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd