Black Cube projects are a "negotiation," says Cortney Stell, executive director and chief curator of the nomadic museum. After finding the “sweet spot” with artists who have enough experience to take on projects of this magnitude, the collaborators normally begin brainstorming ideas for a site-specific exhibit. But the process worked a little differently for SANGREE — an artistic collaboration between René Godínez Pozas and Carlos Lara — for their first public-art installation, Unclassified Site Museum. This time, the site was determined before any other plans were made.
“This site is really different because I knew when I started looking at their work that finding a location in Denver that was a modern ruin would be a really interesting context for them,” Stell, noting that SANGREE's work references both history and anthropology in sculpture and large-scale interventions in public space. “When I found the Market Street Station location, I didn’t really know who owned it but I was really sold on it and felt committed to exploring the space and figuring it out.”
Pozas and Lara initially weren’t so sold on the location, though. Stell says they had already come up with ideas for different projects and wanted to explore possible sites in Denver before deciding on one. When the two artists flew out to see the Market Street location, it was Lara’s first time in the United States.
“At first, we had a completely different direction for the project, and we weren’t so sure about the place Cortney was proposing because it didn’t fit well with what we had in mind,” Lara remembers. “But when we came here, we really liked it and we decided to change the project completely to fit with this site.”
Unclassified Site Museum will use the old Market Street Station — which closed when Union Station reopened as a multi-modal center over two years ago — to create an archeological site dig, exposing remnants of Denver’s past and “collapsing history” through installed subterranean windows. “This project mixes Denver’s past, present and future," Sell says. "The structure of ruins is based on research for early developers of multi-family residential units, and that’s the future of this site. In the next six months, it’ll be turned into multi-family residential units.”
Lara and Pozas will using this site as a ready-made, incorporating some of the existing structures and tree wells. From a distance, Unclassified Site Museum will look like a large, minimalistic sculpture on the 1600 block of Market Street; Lara says he and Pozas didn’t want the project to be invasive.
“This piece relates a lot to the city and the first experiences we had in Denver,” Lara says. “For example, we saw a lot of public-art installations, these huge, magnified objects, or just street art. We wanted to make something that the public can discover, not just be imposed on them. We want them to do their daily routine and discover something in their city. We wanted to create something very subtle, that if you walk by on the sidewalk, you probably can miss it unless you get up close — but it’s not something that’s strange to the place because it’s built around the place.”
Unclassified Site Museum opens Thursday, September 15, with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. at 1601 Market Street, where it will remain through December 31. Pozas and Lara will sit down with Stell at the site at 6 p.m. Tuesday, September 20, for an artist lecture. Visit blackcubeart.org for more information.