Artist and arts advocate Eric Dallimore first saw Denver as a Hurricane Katrina refugee back in 2005; on vacation in California when the storm hit, it took him six weeks to get back to New Orleans. And when he finally did reach the Big Easy, life there wasn't so easy anymore.
Dallimore moved to Colorado, with plans to be exiled here a short time and then return to New Orleans. But it didn’t work out that way, and in 2011, he and a couple of friends decided to open an art gallery, renting a small space on East 17th Avenue that would ultimately become Leon Gallery. As Dallimore was rehabbing the place, a musician friend asked if he could perform there. This serendipitous request led to Leon ultimately becoming both an art gallery and a performance venue.
Leon soon set itself apart by not only hosting performers, but featuring many young and emerging artists, including both fine artists and street artists, all of whom were given wide latitude to do whatever they wanted. Dallimore established this open-ended policy based on his own experiences as an artist; he says he doesn't believe in "over-curating.”
Over the years, a number of collaborators have come and gone at Leon, but one, Eric Nord, stayed. In fact, Dallimore handed Leon over to Nord when he went to graduate school at Louisiana State University over a year ago. During his time there, Dallimore gained a sense of perspective about who he was and what he wanted to do with his life. Nord came up with a new idea for Leon, too, turning it into a nonprofit organization. When he returned to Denver, Dallimore immediately got on board. Leon's application for nonprofit status has been filed and is currently pending. When it comes through, Dallimore and Nord hope to sell memberships and attract larger donors to fund the enterprise.
While Leon's business plan has changed, Dallimore's approach to curating has not. To celebrate the seventh anniversary of Leon, he's organized an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink-and-dishwasher group exhibit, Outliers; Nord supplied the informational content that underpins the effort.
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Outliers is more of an index to artists who have shown at Leon than it is a traditional group display. Shoehorned into the 1,000-square-foot space are 85 works by 25 artists, about the number required for a big museum show. But unlike in a big museum show, the artists in Outliers don't necessarily create work that aligns with the work of others who are included. You can't look at the show as a coherent whole, because it isn't one — but that was the intention.
Because there are so many things going on, Outliers is virtually free-associational. There are tight and accomplished hyperrealist drawings, such as Travis Hetman's “Time Out.” On the opposite pole is the street-elegant geometry of Jolt’s striking diptych of wildly colored zigzags and spirals weaving into and over each other. In between are zany figural abstractions by Matthew Harris; post-realist birds by Michael Dowling (now at K Contemporary); layered imagery, including deconstructed graffiti by Barth Quenzer; and Matt Scobey’s totemic concrete spires.
When I told Dallimore that I thought he'd displayed as many works as possible in Outliers, he responded with a laugh that he could add a few more if he had to. But there's already enough here for a riotous group show.
Outliers runs through September 15 at Leon Gallery, located at 1112 East 17th Avenue. For more information, call 303-832-1599 or go to leongallery.squarespace.com.