As noted, Adam Lerner is "director and chief animator" at MCA Denver, which he's transformed since coming over from the Lab at Belmar into something much more fun and complex than a temple to serious art-viewing. If he's a little tongue-in-cheek in his direction at MCA, it's only because it makes it a more attractive place to young audiences, who are drawn to the modern-art museum's sophisticated wacky programs that pair lectures on unrelated topics, offer craft workshops to hipsters or end up with cocktails on the rooftop. Every show leaves viewers with something to think about, but keeping it light makes people want to return again and again.
What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?
Well, in the art museum field, I am absolutely thrilled to learn about the new studies on acceptable humidity levels for storing and displaying artworks. Although, in another area of art museum practice, I am a little nervous about the trend toward "creativity." There are now museum-studies books and conferences on this subject. I'm all in favor of creativity, but in an art museum?
If only museums could learn from the artist-run Denver County Fair, with its X-Treme Breakfast Burritos, freak shows and selection of booths featuring Star Wars costume-makers. Their dog-agility competition was the best performance event I have seen this year. I am dying to see where the fair will go next. Imagine artist-engineered animals. Or artist-designed roller coasters. Wait, I don't want to imagine that. All I can say is thank God that Dana Cain, Tracy Weil and Andrew Novick and the rest of that crazy bunch live in Denver.
What could be done to improve the scene?
Every year they ask me, and I say, "Flying cars would improve the scene," but do I see any flying cars? No. My other suggestion is that we make marijuana legal for artists, or better yet, for everyone in Colorado. That will never happen. Here's another one: Let's have artists earn a stake in the neighborhoods that artists are transforming. Public policy giving artists a share of the value that they are helping to create in neighborhoods like South Broadway and RiNo will have a huge impact on the future of the arts in Denver. And making Magic Cyclops the next mayor would be great, too.
Who/what has inspired you most in your career?
No question, for the early part of my life, it was Ralph Lauren. Growing up in an immigrant family in New York, I obviously aspired to look like the guy in the Ralph Lauren ad who just stepped off the polo field. And I got my Ph.D. because as a kid I always imagined myself surrounded by those little worn out leather-bound books you see on the shelves of the Polo store. Later on, it was the great Swiss curator Harald Szeemann, a crazy and brilliant thinker who called his office the "Agency of Spiritual Guest Work" while creating the groundwork for much of what today we call contemporary art. I feel lucky to have met him on a few occasions. And I like that he looked like a rabbi.
Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?
Well, aside from the Impressionism exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, obviously, I am excited about Adam Milner's solo show at Emmanuel Gallery. Adam is a courageous artist, not just for taking risks in his art, but for taking risks in his life, which he makes into art. He makes himself so vulnerable to strangers in his performances that it's hard not to be touched by his humanness. Also, I am looking forward to Carmen Wiedenhoeft's pop-up gallery across from MCA Denver presenting a solo show of the talented and prolific artist Tania Dibbs, whose nature paintings are strangely good. Plus, Carmen's got a great kick-off party planned for the first Friday of October. Finally, the Heimrad Bäcker (1925-2003) exhibition is mind-wrenching. Bäcker spent his teenage years as an enthusiastic photographer for the Hitler Youth. He dedicated most of his life afterward to documenting mundane details of the Holocaust, like the holes in a wall where a sign was removed in a former concentration camp. Curator Patrick Greaney, a scholar of the Austrian avant-garde, found most of this material in boxes in the basement of Bäcker's son's house in Vienna. Bäcker's work reminds us of the human tragedy that we cannot redo the past and sometimes to apologize is too easy. I forgot where the exhibition will be held. [Editor's note: This show opened at MCA Denver on September 27.] Visit MCA's website for more information.Continue reading for our interview with Adam Gildar.