Tony Labat's Elevation: Denver activates at Emmanuel tonight with art, DJs and drag

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San Francisco artist Tony Labat has built a site-specific sculpture for Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria Campus, and from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight you can watch his sculpture turn into a platform for community interaction when it is activated with performances by DJs and drag queens. This piece is part of Labat's series Elevations: Platforms, Stages, and Catwalks, and Denver is the first place where Labat has executed one of his twelve original sketches, all of which will be on display during the activation of the cross-shaped structure. Read on to learn more about Elevation: Denver and Labat.

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Cuban-born Labat began making art in 1972, working with sculpture, performance, video and installation. "I wanted to celebrate the community with a project, so I provide a context or container for things to happen," explains Labat. "I allow the organization and institution to curate the performances. Together we invite the community to activate the sculptures with their performances."

Labat is the Emmanuel Gallery's first artist in residence; the installaction was a collaboration with ArtPlant, a local artist residency program, and is the first physical iteration of ideas Labat has been working on for some time. "The drawings I did a few years ago came from me researching elevations and hierarchy," Labat says. "I was watching stages during political debates, cabaret, American Idol, Project Runway and even weddings and investigating how they function. These pieces are activated by elevating the viewer's body and shifting the viewer's perspective."

Other elements that Labat researched for the installation include the history of Emmanuel Gallery, how it was once a synagogue and an artist's studio before it became part of the campus. Labat chose this cross-shaped structure to be built in a place with religious resonance.

"My interest in social, political, high- and low-culture and theatricality has always been present in my work, even in my early punk rock music with The Pudz and The Assholes. We tried to make the stage disappear with democracy," says Labat. "Playing with the idea of the stage and incorporating the viewer has always been a part of my work."

Phil Mann, professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, helped Labat construct the sculpture on the Auraria Campus. "It is very important for me to encourage everyone to participate. This is a sculpture the viewer can walk on and, at their own risk, engage and change their perspective physically. It wouldn't please me if you just look at it," says Labat.

The reception for Elevation: Denver that starts at 6 p.m. tonight, includes a hot dog cart providing eats, drag queens, DJs and a special performance by another San Fran punk pioneer, The Mutants vocalist Fritz Fox. The exhibition runs through June 28 with more activation performances to be announced. Find more information on Emmanuel Gallery's website.

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