Now Showing: Adam Lerner and Adam Gildar

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For this year's Now Showing, Westword's fall arts guide (you'll find it tucked into our September 26 issue), we asked artistic movers and shakers to answer a few questions about the state of the arts, both locally and around the world. We'll be rolling out their answers over the next few weeks in pairs that combine both veterans and newcomers in similar disciplines. Today, we hear from museum director Adam Lerner and gallerist Adam Gildar.

See also: Now Showing: Photographers Mark Sink and Kristen Hatgi Sink

Adam Lerner, director and chief animator, MCA Denver.

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. Adam Gildar, Gildar Gallery.

Adam Gildar segued into being a gallerist after helming the online Illiterate literary and arts magazine; first called Illiterate after the journal, the gallery now bears Gildar's name and his full directorship, which focuses on work by high-quality emerging and established local artists.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

I'm deeply impressed with the emerging talent that keeps bubbling out of Denver. Since I moved here six years ago, it has consistently surprised me with new discoveries. Right now, I'm feeling a sense of young enthusiastic energy here. There have been a number of great community and DIY exhibitions spaces opening in the last two years that are allowing emerging artists to exhibit their work in low-pressure environments open to experimentation. Even the established commercial galleries are beginning to dip their toes into showing work that might not have been viable even a few years ago, particularly digital and more conceptually oriented artwork. We also have a new and energetic contemporary curator at the Denver Art Museum in William Morrow, and I think we'll see some good risk-taking from him. I'm also noticing the local universities embracing more interdisciplinary practices relevant to our current 'anything goes' zeitgeist.

What could be done to improve the scene?

This is always an important question. While there are a number of physical projects that could help to further the development of the arts here, in my opinion the biggest thing Denver can do right now to benefit its art scene is to make a psychological shift -- embracing a sense of cross-cultural exchange and dialogue. Too often, I think conversations here veer toward a dichotomy of local pride versus national/international exoticism, with people firmly taking a stance on either side of the divide. I don't see it that way. I think that in the global culture we live in, it doesn't make sense to hold on to an isolated regional identity. To me this just isn't the truth of most people's experiences. Thanks to the flattening of the world by the Internet, artists in Denver are influenced as much by what is happening in New York or Los Angeles, London or Tokyo as they are about their physical surroundings. I don't think we need to forget where we are, either. The atmosphere in Denver has its own unique influence and appeal, and is very much a part of the mythos of the American West. It's a blending of these views that I think will help Denver graduate from its creative pubescence into a more mature cultural city. 

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

Artists inspire me. Without them my career doesn't exist. 

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

This fall, I will be watching the artists that I work with most, since that is where most of my day-to-day focus lies. In the immediate future, I'm particularly excited to work with the painter Clark Richert on a show at my gallery opening in November. He is one of the sharpest and most encouraging art minds I've ever met, and he has influenced many generations of artists in Denver with not only his own artwork, but also his involvement with some very important historical projects that have extended the influence of Colorado beyond its geographic boundaries. I'm also looking forward to seeing the artist Amber Cobb realize a great sculptural project coming up at BMoCA in October. She is a young artist who is constantly pushing her work to grow -- not only in scale, but with new ideas and materials. As far as outside things go, I'm always fascinated by the programming at the MCA, and I think their upcoming series of fall exhibitions should be an interesting juxtaposition of content that will showcase Adam Lerner's unorthodox vision of museum programming. Otherwise, I'm generally looking forward to seeing the unexpected; after all, we are talking about art!

Learn more about Gildar Gallery online.

Come back to Show and Tell tomorrow for our interviews with dancer/choreographers Nancy Smith and Patrick Mueller.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.

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