When the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar opened in the fall of 2006, founding director Adam Lerner declared his interest in searching the world for contemporary artists while simultaneously announcing his disinterest in trying to find any of them around here. And Lerner held to that outsiders-only approach for more than a year before he figured out that he needed to build an audience. It was obviously clear to him that a lot of people in the Denver area would be attracted to shows by artists from our own community as much or more than to the efforts of artists from elsewhere.
To begin with, Lerner tentatively placed locals in pseudo-exhibits in the unfortunately named Poop Deck. But the first Colorado artist to be given proper gallery space at the Lab -- and to thus actually break this geographic version of the color barrier -- was Phil Bender, (pictured), the Mile High City’s premier folk conceptualist.
Bender’s show, Last Place, which closed this past Sunday, was a crowded affair filled to the brim with his signature assemblages in which the artist collects together a group of similar things—ladders, rulers, belts, pictures, whatever—and then simply lines them up on the walls. It may sound ridiculously simple, but it often works, leading to creations that are powerful and fun to look at.
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Though its run is over, the installation is still in place and will provide the backdrop for Bender Bender, billed as “a party” and “roast” of the artist. It gets under way tonight, Tuesday, May 6, at 7 p.m. at the Lab (404 South Upham Street, 303-934-1777, www.belmarlab.org) and is free with prior registration. — Michael Paglia