Denver artist Thomas Evans, aka Detour, has his gaze and his art set on the Five Points of the future.
Like all of us chained to the inescapable prisons of time, space and physicality, he can’t literally transport himself beyond our current century, in which the historically black neighborhood is transforming amid rapid gentrification. But he has every intention of traveling into the creative future of the neighborhood with his first solo show in two and a half years, a sweeping, multimedia exhibition set a hundred years from now. In it, a fictional band of his own invention called the 5 Pointers is being honored with a small museum dedicated to its music and legacy.
In addition to building the objects and musical instruments to be included in the show, Evans whipped up an expansive backstory. It goes something like this:
Having first met in 2099, the 5 Pointers cut their teeth at revitalized jazz-hop club the Rossonian, in the heart of Five Points. The bandmates' weekly improv sessions become hugely popular locally, prompting club owner Baxter Carter to secretly record several sessions. The members are furious when they learn about the recordings, but they eventually agree to share the music with the wider public via their debut album, The Word, as Spoken by The 5 Pointers. The record launches the group to international fame and sold-out tours, garnering critical acclaim in the process. After a disappointing follow-up album in 2105, the members announce an indefinite hiatus and go on to pursue personal projects: Synth player Carl Remington builds a motorcycle named Mali and travels across the globe; drummer King Tempo dedicates himself to preserving the jazz culture of a rapidly sinking New Orleans.
Meanwhile, thanks to the disastrous effects of climate change on coastal cities, migration to inland cities explodes, catapulting Denver's population to some nine million residents. Community clashes and massive protests ensue in cities across the globe, and, during one such riot, Carter is killed outside the Rossonian, prompting the fractured group's return to Denver. After diffusing another potential riot in Civic Center Park by hosting a two-day impromptu jam session on the lawn, the band solidifies its reputation as a global symbol of musical change and advocacy. In 2119, with the collaboration of the Denver Historical Society, the 5 Pointers Museum opens in the group’s namesake neighborhood, compiling two decades of ephemera, memorabilia, instruments, ticket stubs, awards and artwork.
If this all sounds like a hugely ambitious project, that's because it is. Evans had been itching to work in a narrative form and showcase a variety of mediums. "I said to myself, 'I'm going to create a band in the future,' because a lot of my interactive work deals with music and collaboration with musicians," he says. "I started to conceptualize the actual show, and then from just talking about it with other people, it grew from there."
He enlisted local musicians to play the 5 Pointers. Felix Fast4ward is Wex Abeo, entrusted with a two-pronged psychedelic harp. Dameion Hines is drummer King Tempo, Venus Cruz is singer Lola Divine, and Crl Crrll is interactive-painting-cum-synthesizer-player Carl Remington. Evans partnered with fabricators to create the sculptural instruments, all of which will be played during the opening. (Visitors are welcome to try their hand afterward.)
As for the songwriting aspect, he granted his collaborators relative creative freedom. “What I gave them was, ‘You’re a band in the future, and this is how you get together. This is why people are moving around in the world. This is what’s happening when it comes to music. This is what’s happening when it comes to technology,’” he says. “From there they were able to say, ‘This is the direction to go with.’ I will be surprised during rehearsals. It was really important to not constrain them.”
Evans’s fixation on music isn’t new. Born into a military family in Dayton, Ohio, and raised across the globe, he realized the art form’s universal appeal early — “They sang Tupac lyrics in Czechoslovakia,” he remembers. He started b-boying in high school and took the name Detour from a tape by California crew Originality Stands Alone. As artist-in-residence at the Denver Art Museum, he made a series of interactive, playable paintings. Subjects of his dizzyingly vibrant portraits characterized by amorphous splashes of color — think Chuck Close completely unbound, though the painterly shapeliness recalls Lucian Freud — include Charles Mingus, Stevie Nicks, Nina Simone, Kendrick Lamar and Ray Charles. He’s painted the 5 Pointers in a similar style for the exhibition.
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Beyond the portraits and the fabricated instruments, the exhibition’s ephemera and artifacts include Grammys drenched in psychedelic color, a Time magazine article, and the motorcycle Remington rode across countries. There’s even a “vintage” turntable from 2070.
And as an imagined retrospective spanning a band’s entire career, it’s fundamentally concerned with what lasts — a concept that Evans, as a muralist, is plenty familiar with.
“When I do street art, I have an understanding that this may be temporary. It may only last so long. So what does last? What ideas last? What physical, tangible objects will last the test of time?” he says. “What will stand the test of time and what will go by the wayside? What ideas will wither away? That is something I’ll always be thinking about.”
Red Bull Presents Detour's 5 Pointers at 6 p.m. Friday, November 8, at RedLine Contemporary Art Center, 2350 Arapahoe Street. Admission is $10. For more information, go to the Red Bull website.