Art Review

Art Review: Black Cube's New Brutal Takes on Denver's Building Boom

This past summer, RedLine founder Laura Merage launched another Denver art venue, Black Cube, which was conceived as a nomadic museum based out of a black metal container in the shape of a cube. The plan is for the box to be moved around and used for pop-up exhibitions or performances.

Currently, Black Cube is featuring Derrick Velasquez: New Brutal, which is installed in the Stanley Marketplace, a former airplane hangar that is being converted into a mixed-use development near Stapleton. Although the Stanley is expected to open in April, it looks pretty rough right now. But that, unexpectedly, makes it the ideal place for Velasquez’s site-specific installation, which, though finished, looks like it’s not.

For New Brutal, Velasquez built a high-rise version of a tiny house. Similar to an apartment building in miniature, it’s still big for a sculpture, rising 25 feet. The piece takes up the topic of Denver’s current building boom. Velasquez and a single assistant built the entire structure, despite the fact that the artist had no previous experience with construction work. As Velasquez points out, however, anyone living in Denver can easily see how new buildings are put together: There are examples of them at every stage of construction pretty much everywhere you look.

To build the tower, Velasquez employed the degraded present-day versions of traditional building materials, including the ubiquitous would-be-wood MDF panels, Tyvek sheets and plastic moldings. The overall form of the tower is a vertical shaft with setbacks at the upper two volumes. The walls are pierced by various openings that are simple voids as opposed to being proper windows and doors. The structure is internally lighted so that some interior features can be glimpsed through those openings, including a modernist light fixture and a potted plant. Covering the exterior walls are cheesy ornamental passages in white plastic that stand out against the variegated brown of the MDF cladding and lend the tower a kind of Disneyland-Victorian quality.

Cortney Lane Stell was named director of Black Cube and has been presenting shows since the fall. The Velasquez feature is the third for the traveling venue; the first was a Desirée Holman performance at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Park, and the second was a giant inflated blue prospector by Chad Person, which was installed across the street from the State Capitol.

New Brutal
runs through December 12; it’s open for viewing on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons at the Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora. Go to for additional information.
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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia