Colorado Crush 2016 may be over, but the murals that recently bloomed in the RiNo Art District aren't going anywhere. Nearly eighty artists made this year's event the most successful ever. Since Crush balances street art and graffiti, it can sometimes feel as though the event's at odds with itself, given the complex relationship between those two worlds. But this year, there was a welcoming sense of community and comradeship between artists, and a crush of appreciative visitors.
This year's Crush not only enjoyed huge buy-in from neighborhood businesses, but central space was saved for artists who live in the neighborhood, Denver graffiti crews and first-timers; international artists were given space on the main walls. There was so much art, it was impossible to see it all — or to show it all here. Our slideshow comes close, but you simply have to head down to RiNo to understand how this district is becoming one of the leading outdoor art spaces in the nation.
In the meantime, here are 21 jaw-dropping new murals painted during Colorado Crush 2016.
1. Anthony Garcia
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This spot was made brighter by Anthony Garcia Sr., the Birdseed founder who was back for his fourth, and most ambitious, Crush project. Find the two murals painted by Garcia pictured above on the north-facing wall of Rackhouse.
2. The Big Wall - Dulk, Jose Mertz, Max Sansing
Denver Central Market
2669 Larimer Street
The big wall was a sight to behold this year, and timed nicely (albeit accidentally) to coincide with the grand opening of Denver Central Market. Beginning on Larimer Street and working west: Spain's Dulk painted "The Tortoise and the Harriet" from a children's book of the same name; Miami-based Jose Mertz painted the central, rainbow Tiger, with a little help from friend and fellow artist Woes; and Chicago-born Max Sansing created a color-dripping mural on the far right, next to the impressive list of Crush 2016 sponsors.
3. Arty Deed's Stranger Things Alley
2500-2600 block between Larimer and Walnut streets
The Arty Deeds crew fucks heavily with Stranger Things — or at least curator Jher knew everyone would love the concept. This residential alleyway is now decked out with references to the Netflix show; artists who contributed included Eaks, Duble, Shewp, Gets, Ben Chase Thompson and more. Jher, who painted half of the Stranger Things alleyway, has done graffiti in Denver for over 20 years and also happened to make our list of the twenty best tattooers in Denver. The piece is currently still in progress, Jher explains, but is nearly 2/3 done and will likely be completed in another 2-3 weeks.
4. Koko Bayer, Kwue Molly with Outersource, Ozjuah Sepia, Cicso Sinatra, Mad Man Art, Jake Merten and Denton Burrows
3200 Walnut Street
Denver Hardware was among the most decked out of spaces this year, with a total of nine artists painting on its bizarre, rock-textured walls, including Kwue Molly from New York with collaborative help from artist Outersource, Cicso Sinatra, Denton Burrows, Mad Man Art, Jake Merten, both from California, and locals Koko Bayer (with a wheat paste) and Ozjuah Sepia. Says Sepia of the piece: "This one is the ozjuahzian guardian of the sky, who protects the sky and all the creatures who live there. Similar to a large whale-size fish called phisozian. She has a sun on her head as a crown and clouds on her shoulders. This piece is dedicated to my only son, whom I call my only sonshine (sunshine), he brings light and happiness into my life. She has a cloud on a string to show that no matter how hard life gets, there is always a silver lining some place in the sky."
5. Blaine Fontana
2920 Larimer Street
This ten-day project was possibly the most ambitious to date by Blaine Fontana, who says: "On the verge of finishing the most proud yet challenging murals I have ever done. Finishing the Louis Pasteur portrait. I'm in uncharted territory ripping an aerosol portrait on a 12 foot scale."
2450 Larimer Street
Woes Martin was a busy man during Crush 2016. He painted a gigantic collaboration on the back of Rackhouse with Jose Mertz to start, then went on to help Mertz with his tiger piece on the big wall, and by the time Thursday and Friday rolled around, Woes was working on his third giant canvas: the graphic, layered panda scene seen above. Thank you, Woes!
7. Patrick Kane McGregor
2855 Walnut Street
McGregor commissioned his son, Tristan, to help him finish this stunning monster wall located in the "skirts" of the central Crush location. McGregor has accidentally made bulldogs his mascots and a signature part of his work; he didn't originally plan to include the symbols here, but was talked into adding them to a piece that centers on Evil Knievel. And it paid off. McGregor is the lead man for Colossal, which works on hyper-realistic sign commissions around town. 8. Michael Ortiz
Volunteers of America
2660 Larimer Street
This is the first time that the Volunteers of America building has been painted in any form. It's a prime location that faces the Matchbox, the big wall and main parking lot of Crush, and Ortiz got dibs on three of the best canvases at Crush 2016. He did them justice, weaving pensive and deliberate emotions throughout the three pieces, creating a warm triptych.
9. Smoky and Shalak
The Walnut Room
3131 Walnut Street
Canadian artists Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky dominated a Walnut Room-facing wall during Crush 2016. The finished piece is a two-headed bear that will scare the pizza out of your hands if you walk out of the Walnut Room too quickly. The duo was passing through Denver on a street-art tour that takes them to Houston this weekend; they left the Mile High City a major souvenir of their visit.
10. Axel Geittmann
3163 Larimer Street
Axel Geittmann is another local artist who exceeded expectations at Crush 2016 with his silver-and-black street-art piece on the north-facing wall of the Populist. You may recognize his work from the still-standing Project Colfax, an abandoned car wash turned gallery. Of this piece, Geittmann said on Instagram: "Reunited with spray cans after we broke up about a decade ago."
Continue reading to see eleven more of the most amazing new murals from Crush 2016.
11. Joshua Mays
2700 Larimer Street
The popular bar Cold Crush has an ever-evolving array of artwork on its patio that's lovingly referred to as the Phoenix Wall. It was just painted by Joshua Mays, formerly a Denver artist who's now based in the Bay Area. Mays goes way back with the Phoenix Wall curator, Musa Bailey, who's co-owner of Cold Crush, and Bailey was lucky enough to secure work from Mays while he was in town for his Knew Conscious gallery opening.
12. Evan Hecox
2944 Larimer Street
A Colorado-based artist sponsored by paintmakers Liquitex, Evan Hecox could be considered a "gone-pro" street artist. He began painting his mural for Crush 2016 late last week, finishing on September 22. The minimalist, graphic-design homage incorporates black, gold and red elements with childlike wonder.
13. Birdcap and Nosey42
2800-2900 blocks, between Larimer and Walnut streets
The dirty South — specifically Memphis — bred two insanely talented artists: Birdcap, or Michael Roy, and Nosey42, aka Brandon Marshall. The "NoseyCap" monster mashup was one of three murals that Roy painted while in town; the first can be found at Lakewood's ARC thrift store (right by Casa Bonita), and the second is a doughtnut man on Winchell's.
14. Scribe and Mike Graves
2600-2700 blocks, Larimer and Walnut streets
A graffiti legend in these parts, Donald Ross Scribe hit the streets for Crush 2016; he also painted on the Cypher Shop/Community Service to celebrate the release of his The Scribble Squad. One of the most well-known artists from the DF crew, Scribe even found time to collaborate with SUB on a stunning mural located close to one by another DF heavy hitter, Emit. With this Crush, Mike Graves added a killer mural to his RiNo collection. The vivid imagination, bold lines and bright pinks of the duo's work blended effortlessly.
15. Mary Schaefer Brink
2600-2700 blocks, Larimer and Walnut streets
Pretty Kitty blew it out of the park with this huge wall, her first in a few years. The Littleton native and mother of two added collaborative features with Sense and Mike Graves. Along with badass ninja kitties, the piece features hidden inspirational messages in its text: "imagine change," "get unplugged," "be aware" and "adventure."
2600-2700 blocks, Larimer and Walnut streets
Japanese artist Sense returned to the Mile High City for the second consecutive summer. Last year, he graced the Cherry Creek Bike Path via the Urban Arts Fund next to countryman Mon; this year, he painted his signature geometric creepy-crawlies all over the River North Art District in three separate murals along the main alleyway.
17. Vinni Alfonso and John Van Horn
2800-2900 blocks, in between Larimer and Walnut streets
Representing for the Helikon gallery artists, Vinni Alfonso and John Van Horn made a creepy rooster auto-portrait of sorts on the east side of the alleyway wall that arrives at 28th Street. Working progressively throughout the week, the duo finished just in time for Saturday afternoon's heavy foot traffic.
18. Beo Hake
3111 Larimer Street
Beo Hake is an artist hailing from Portugal who was commissioned to paint this stunner on Raquelitas for Crush 2016. The tortilla factory, opened in 1960, had never had a commissioned mural — which makes this piece by Hake all the more impressive.
19. Luis Valle
3300-3400 blocks, Larimer Street
Miami-based artist Luis Valle, also known as El Chan Guri, worked really hard for the short amount of time he spent in Denver. Along with a solo show at Alto and this mural for Crush 2016, he created a powerful dragon image in his unique dotted style on Urban Dispensary.
20. Joseph Martinez and Boy Kong
3300 Larimer Street
Joseph Martinez and Boy Kong were a collaborative powerhouse during Crush 2016. The piece, which took over a virgin twenty-foot-tall wall near Summit church, portrays a cock fight of epic proportions. Martinez, whose work is on the left, is a local artist who has mastered complex, sometimes sexually-driven realism. Boy Kong is from Orlando, Florida, and is known for his "mixture of Ukiyo-e, surrealism, graffiti and animal folklore." Boy Kong and Martinez found common ground in their mural, as well as at Secret Walls, a black-and-white paint-only celebratory street-art event held Saturday night at Rackhouse.
21. Brian Scott Hampton, Phero and Mpek
2600-2700, between Walnut and Larimer streets
The triple threat of Phero, Mpek and Brian Scott Hampton created this piece in the main alleyway, just north of the big wall and on the west side, with the help of Brian Itch and Aleo Art. The local power is intense.