Adviser for Denver Art Museum's Desert Rider Asks to Be Removed From Show | Westword
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Adviser for Denver Art Museum's Desert Rider Asks to Be Removed From Show

Jolt wrote on Instagram that he "wouldn't let myself or our culture be tokenized by the institution to sell entry tickets" to the show, which focuses on Chicano culture and showcases local artists.
Desert Rider opens with the Lowrider Show and Shine July 9.
Desert Rider opens with the Lowrider Show and Shine July 9. Brent Andeck

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The Denver Art Museum's new exhibit, Desert Rider: Dreaming in Motion, is notable for being one of the few large, Chicano-focused shows in a major Mile High City facility. It's also a rarity for such an institution to showcase so many local artists, but now one artist who was briefly involved with the show has rejected his association with it.

Denver muralist and graffiti artist Jolt was initially credited on an installation wall text for advisory assistance, but he says that his name was used without his consent. "It's been brought to my attention that the Denver Art Museum has credited me as a 'Community Advisor' for their Desert Rider Show," he wrote in a statement on Instagram posted July 8, one day before the exhibit opened. "I am not, and was very clear about not wanting to be associated with that show without being given the same appreciation they extended to out of state and a couple local artists.

"I was asked to attend a meeting to which I thought was to be given the opportunity to represent my work and city, that wasn't the case," Jolt wrote."When choosing to add my name to that plaque they did not consider the fact that I told them I felt the majority of the work in the show wasn't representative of our local culture. ... I'm not a 'Desert Rider' I don't fly a placa that says 'Maricón' as shown in the exhibit and wouldn't let myself or our culture be tokenized by the institution to sell entry tickets. If given the opportunity to have a voice and feel appreciation, yes I would have showed up and represented."

The full statement can be read @guerillagarden on Instagram. Jolt did not respond to requests for an interview.

His comments prompted swift action from the museum. "As part of its ongoing commitment to incorporate community voices into its art experiences, the Denver Art Museum's exhibition team convened a community advisory group in advance of Desert Rider: Dreaming in Motion to gather feedback and insights during the planning stages of this show's presentation in Denver," the DAM says. "Jolt participated in the initial meeting and provided feedback and insights during that discussion. The credit panel was to both acknowledge and thank all the individuals who offered their time and input. The museum has now removed this artist's name from those acknowledgements."
click to enlarge
"When I Roll (Pure Devocion '96)" by Denver artist Juan Fuentes.
Denver Art Museum
Desert Rider was originally assembled at the Phoenix Art Museum by its former curator of contemporary art, Gilbert Vicario. The initial show explored automotive and skateboarding subcultures while focusing specifically on Latin and Indigenous creators. Denver curator Victoria Lyall brought it to the DAM, intending to maintain that emphasis while including a number of Colorado artists and their visions of the wheeled world.

Of the nearly 25 artists whose work is shown in the DAM's exhibit, ten live and work in Colorado, and half were born and raised in Denver. Others hail from New Mexico, Arizona and California. Many were born in Mexico or on reservations.

At least one local creative and community leader, Maruca Salazar, calls the exhibit a clear step forward. Salazar has served the city's Chicano, youth and artistic communities in many capacities, including as director of Museo de las Americas.

"To be honest, for me, it was a victory," she says, citing recent contributing developments that have rocked the curatorial world here and elsewhere, including the Black Lives Matter movement and her own curatorial work.

"In my eyes, after the struggles of two, three years ago, I feel that we are moving in the right direction," she continues. "This is my feeling. Why? Because prior to that...we supported the Colorado talents in the small organizations like Museo de las Americas, but in the large organizations, that was very, very, very, very nonexistent."

In 2022, Salazar came out of retirement to curate the Museo's exhibit Malinalli on the Rocks as a direct response to the lack of local contemporary talent in the Denver Art Museum's Malinche: Traitor, Survivor, Icon. "So for this exhibit," she says, "I feel a little vindicated, because two years ago it was a serious struggle, in terms of...major exhibits brought from the outside on topics that are very important to the Chicano and Latinx and Latino communities. And not to have representation in a major institution...that was just totally unbelievable and unacceptable."

That's why she considers the current level of inclusion with Desert Rider to be so major, though she also says that there's still plenty of work to be done, especially in promoting local women artists.

"As a community supporter and advocate, I said: 'We got ten! For the first time in over 35 years, we got ten Colorado artists,'" she says. "Chicanos! And Latinos! ... My God, what an accomplishment. That's the way I see it."

Desert Rider: Dreaming in Motion is on display through September 24 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway.
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