#74: Ivar Zeile
Ivar Zeile collects artists with a keen eye for talent and trends as director of RiNo's Plus Gallery, but he also makes some free-swinging hunches as he tries to get a sense for what's next in the contemporary art scene. In recent years, Zeile's search for the new has led him into the unmined realm of digital and motion-based work and the formation of the Denver Digerati project, which works with the Denver Theatre District to bring video art to downtown LED screens.
How goes the hunt for everything new and innovative in art? Find out by reading Zeile's answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Ivar Zeile: I think I'd first want to vet anybody on a personal level that I might collaborate with, I've found over time that it's useful to get to know people better before diving into anything too closely. But I originally became much more involved and appreciative of the philosophies within art and the system of art after reading Gerhard Richter's writings twenty years ago and have highly admired his artwork and continuing practice ever since. And after watching the exquisite film Gerhard Richter Painting, I think I'd be quite confident that it would be a collaboration I'd embrace wholeheartedly, though there are so many others that would be compelling, as well.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Jonathan Monaghan is of strong interest to me in contemporary visual art. He's a young artist whose work advances an aesthetic that I feel perfectly bridges the gap that digital animation needs to leap in order to be given it's proper respect in today's higher level contemporary sphere. I've worked with him selectively both via Plus Gallery and Denver Digerati, and in my opinion, there is nobody more exciting, approachable and really terrific as a human being. I'm pretty sure one day I'll look back and feel incredibly honored that I had the opportunity to be in on the early stage of his career. Jonathan will be giving a 3-D modeling and printing workshop this summer at Anderson Ranch near Aspen; I couldn't recommend anything more highly for a summer-art adventure. Continue reading for more from Ivar Zeile. What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Stoner art and also art for sale in bars. I'm also not a big fan of outdoor art markets. I just really feel sorry for artists in that setting, almost across the board, not to mention the statement it makes about our scene.
What's your day job?
For the last thirteen years, I have been the owner and director of Plus Gallery, a reputable platform for presenting artist exhibitions and representing contemporary artists in Denver. We currently support approximately 35 artists, many of whom are considered at the top of their game in the Denver contemporary community, as well as a handful who are prominent on a national level. There are a lot of different aspects to the job at various times of the day, week and given time-period during the month or year.
I also work during the day and often at night as the curator for the Denver Theatre District, selecting artwork for large-scale billboards that are presented on buildings downtown as well as motion-based artworks for the LED screens also located downtown, the most prominent of which is located at 14th and Champa. This initiative has led to Denver Digerati, a platform for developing interest in and engaging digital animation and motion-based art in the public realm. It's one of the most exciting projects I've been involved with the last three years and continues to spark new and expansive ideas, particularly as most of the work now resides primarily online.
And if that wasn't enough, once a year, I put together the Denver Art Dealers Association (DADA) guide and also curate and manage the USA Pro Challenge Bike Art Project, now in its fourth year. Continue reading for more from Ivar Zeile.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Wow, I really lost a lot of sleep last night just thinking about the possibilities -- a blank check never comes without strings attached, I suspect. But I guess my current fantasy would be to pay off the commercial billboard companies and take over all of the LED screens that are currently in place in the Denver Theatre District or downtown Denver proper. Some have terrible locations or don't make much sense, so possibly a few would be removed and of course, I'd design and install others in key locations.
Advertising would not be removed entirely, but the screens would be dedicated largely to featuring animation and motion-based art, interactive concepts, and community collaborations that integrate rapidly evolving technologies and advances in both film and visual art that would change the very nature of public art, tapping into the current zeitgeist around visual literacy and the networking of art in the age of the internet. I would rapidly expand Denver Digerati's current program for procuring and commissioning artwork for the screens, advancing a library of digital content that would build over time, involving artists from all over the world as well as supporting local artists and institutions that could advance forward given the opportunity that this creative channel would support.
Advertising would be integrated as "sponsorship" of content and be highly controlled so that the visual interface would be compatible with the caliber of artwork, thus supporting itself financially over time, freeing up the rest of these unlimited funds (you did say unlimited, right?) for me to turn Plus Gallery into a museum for local contemporary art, which some people already mistake it for.
If you could introduce me to this mystery patron sooner than later I would greatly appreciate it. Continue reading for more from Ivar Zeile.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I think that if I answered that too honestly, I'd probably get myself in a lot of trouble! But it seems that the arts are doing great in Denver, at least from various angles. Art is everywhere these days and not just in the visual arts, but there is really a strong infrastructure that has built over the last decade or at least since I began operating here. There is one serious problem in my opinion, and that is "the wall" that commonly drives some of the top talent away from our lovely state because of the genuine lack of deeper level patron support, particularly at the commercial gallery level (and I should point out, the more progressive contemporary realm).
It's very competitive these days, and competition is good, but I feel there should be more higher level of patronage for individual artists and not just institutions and the non-profit realm. It wouldn't hurt for the Denver Art Museum to developing a more advanced and genuine protocol for collecting local artists or those from our scene, who could use the boost in elevating their national careers.
We'll never be able to compete with NYC and other entrenched art locations around the world, but I think the tide could shift a bit if enough people within Denver took a closer look at what supporting contemporary art could entail. Maybe the rest of our population might start to get it as a result.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
If I have to pick just one it would probably be Justin Beard. I love his artwork and sensibilities, every encounter with him either in person or online makes me happy. He just seems so authentic. And there are so many others. Continue reading for more from Ivar Zeile.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Plus Gallery's summer exhibition opening July 10 will be a major group-effort called Super Human. I'm really excited about it, as it will bring together a wide variety of terrific artists, pulling from the gallery's enormous pool of talent and introducing others from the local scene, including the incredibly fascinating sculptor Roger Reutimann and some other outstanding artists from around the world. I tend to host one group exhibition every year, and this one has more dimension and personal interest for me than just about any others have have had previously, and I think some of the works are going to be quite mind-blowing.
We'll start the fall season with Jenny Morgan's next solo exhibition, something I could not possibly be more excited for, In my opinion, it's a major milestone not only for Plus but for Denver's scene. And later in the fall, we'll have the proper solo debut for Nick Musaelian, one of the more amazing painters still largely flying under the radar here in Colorado. It's fun to engage Nick in conversations about art, as he's fabulously knowledgeable and as entertaining to listen to as his art is to view.
A number of our artists are involved in off-site exhibitions that I'll also be supporting. Jenny Morgan has a very unique solo exhibition occurring in Cheyenne in June called Human Condition. It will probably be the single greatest representation of her work to date, a survey that brings together some of her pivotal commissioned paintings such as "Wikileaks" alongside her collaborative works with David Mramor and several of her most intense and searing portraits, both of herself and of others. It's going to be sublime. A handful of Plus Gallery artists are also on view in the Arvada Center's summer exhibition Unbound, which should probably be one of the most heralded exhibitions of the year. Collin Parson has really put together a fascinating mixture of primarily local artists that will be unlike any other presented previously at an institution of that size in the area.
I'm hosting three groundbreaking Friday Flash events at the corner of 14th and Champa this summer, curated through Denver Digerati as a continuation of our popular series that we initiated last year. Friday Flash No. 6: Download This/Image Anarchism will take place on Friday, June 13, featuring works from animators and artists from all over the world, curated through a process of direct-downloading to the computer. I'm quite certain this is the first time such a concept has been attempted in public anywhere in the world, and I am incredibly excited about it.
We'll follow that with Friday Flash No. 7: Kid Wonder on Friday, July 18 (and a special matinee on Saturday, July 19 at 11 a.m.), a kid-friendly program that doesn't necessarily dumb-down the content but shows how invigorating animation is today, in support of the concept that "visual literacy" is of extreme importance to the current and future generations. I guarantee it will be stimulating for all audiences, both young and old.
And our finale will be the September 19 unveiling of this year's commissioned artworks, the continuation of Denver Digerati's most unique asset that is working towards a permanent collection of motion-based artworks for use on the LED screens. This year's slate of artists includes locals Laleh Mehran, Evan Mann and David Fodel, along with national artists Barry Whittaker, Katie Torn and Jeremy Couillard, and one international artist Kutay Cengil, originally from Turkey but now based in Vancouver. Our infrastructure and work with some of the world's leading artists through this program has really helped us gain traction and interest from outstanding artists all around the world. We plan to continue building upon that. It's a fascinating effort and one that I am really so proud to be involved in. There's really nothing else to compare it to, which is rare in the world of art today.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local art community in 2014?
I like what I've seen recently from Laura Shill, a RedLine resident artist who is very multi-faceted in her approach to art and whose prominence has been slowly building over the last couple of years. I think her sensibilities are oddly compelling, and she seems to be taking some risks with her work, but with a good head on her shoulders. So many curators have tapped her for group shows and other opportunities (myself included), but I think she's ready to shine on her own very soon. She's currently involved in a residency project at the McNichols Building, along with Amber Cobb, another local contemporary artist that's also getting noticed regularly in Denver's scene, deservedly so.
Friday Flash begins its summer season on the LED screen at 14th and Champa streets at 8 p.m. Friday, June 13. For information about Denver Digerati and Friday Flash, visit the website. Learn more about Ivar Zeile and Plus Gallery online.
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