For Thomas "Detour" Evans's interactive exhibit at The Temple tonight, July 27, expect bright colors, loud music deejayed live, and a chance to break the usual "look but don't touch" rule of art viewership. Detour, whose work you might recognize from his rose-backed murals or RedLine residency, has put together Between the Hues, an art showcase that will culminate in an after-party at Meadowlark Kitchen.
The goal is "to make it feel like this piece is made for this space," Detour said last Thursday, looking at a wall crisscrossed with blue tape; he planned to coat the walls in colors that would complement the pieces hung on them. The art in question, housed in frames he handcrafted in the RedLine wood shop, boasts bold colors and sharp geometric lines. But the first things the eye darts to in these pieces are the lower halves of faces, painted on cardboard in a myriad of hues. These cardboard partial portraits began as a side activity as he worked on a separate, time-consuming project, says Detour, and then burgeoned into a full-blown motif. He's drawn to these half-faces because missing the subject's eyes gives the work a kind of anonymity, a space for viewers to invent a story, even though many of the faces actually come from reference images of friends.
But the hallmark of Between the Hues will be the artwork that merges visual appeal with electronic instrumentation. For example: Atop a seemingly unassuming white pedestal rest a variety of colored spheres. Touch the spheres with a finger, and a corresponding noise sounds; it's a keyboard turned sculpture. And because the piece is hooked up to a computer, Detour can change the settings so the large golden ball, for instance, can make the sound of a wobble bass, or chimes, or something else entirely. Another interactive work sees the kind of clear plastic cups you might associate with office gatherings, filled with water-dyed Crayola colors. At Between the Hues, when DJ Mikey Fresh disturbs the surface of the water with flying fingers, it'll create music. Another interactive work has rectangles reminiscent of Tetris or super-saturated skyscrapers.
Detour has been making interactive work since he devoted himself full-time to art, but says he's "gravitated" to music in his art since before that. While earning his bachelor's degree at the University of Colorado, he'd airbrush figures (like jazz legend Louis Armstrong) in black-and-white over a canvas made of broken records. After earning an MBA, a foray into advertising and an attempt to join the military that a torn LCL foiled, Detour went to Tanzania to do marketing work for a rural school. Eight months of bucket showers later, he returned to the States determined to pursue art.
His first show, held at Cold Crush in 2014, showcased some interactive art, with embedded amp and speaker systems and an iPhone or iPod jack. Detour taught himself about wiring and electronics from online tutorials, and his interactive art has gotten increasingly intricate over the years.
His work in other mediums has also continued to evolve, as evidenced by the gas mask sitting alongside paintbrushes in empty cans and a record half-covered in green paint in one of his two RiNo studios. At street-art festival CRUSH two years ago, Detour got a space near the Denver Central Market to create his first aerosol mural. The final product was an image of a woman with an "afro-punk look" he'd met at a day party, against a background of red roses that his friend Thien "Tienz" Tao had shown him how to create.
While the aerosol technique is vastly different from painting on canvas, one thing that Detour's works share is the speed with which he assembles them. Many of the pieces on display in Between the Hues took only a day or two to create. And while the process of tracking down permissions and grants for a recent 120-by-27-foot mural on Grape St. off I-70 took eight months, Detour completed the project — a portrait of his friend Cindy Cervantes, a bgirl — in nine days' time, but "that was only because I couldn't work all day" in the heat, he says. Otherwise, he could have finished it in three to four days.
As Detour (the name comes from a VHS he used to watch of a German breakdance team), Evans shares his work and its intermediate stages on his Instagram account, which has roughly 40,000 followers. On it, he posts a recurring #arttiptuesday, appearing in a ubiquitous black boater hat. His work, which is on display at Meadowlark Kitchen, RedLine exhibits (he's been part of the residency program for ten months) and on walls and garages throughout Denver, has attracted him a steady train of commissions. Being busy has left him with little time for exhibits like this one, which he decided to do once the studios were cluttered with finished art; his last official exhibit was They Still Live in early 2016 at RedLine, a set of photographs that centered around an exploration of African roots and genetic testing. Recently, Detour says, he spent a day in Morrison for that project's sequel, photographing children wearing traditional African masks amid the Red Rocks landscape.
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Now, in the Temple, the walls of the second-floor hallways are painted. From 6 to 9 p.m. on July 27, visitors will have a chance to create their own music on some of the artwork (priced between $250 and $1,500) to complement the beats DJ Mikey Fresh will be making using Detour's pieces. After that, Meadowlark Kitchen will host the Art & Soul Afterparty from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., where DJ A-L will play pre-recorded music using an interactive work and more new pieces will be on display. The Facebook event page has more information. And if you miss the opening but still have an appetite for art, you can visit the Temple on August's First Friday or set up a time to see it by contacting Detour via Instagram (@detour303) or email (email@example.com).
Ultimately, Detour hopes that Between the Hues will help readers engage with art in a fresh way. Speaking in the lobby of his exhibit, which will house several interactive pieces, he reflected, "When people play on it or see it or experience it, they walk away thinking differently."