DENVER — Breakthroughs: A Celebration of RedLine at 15 is a juried group exhibition of 18 RedLine Contemporary Arts Center alumni artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver, curated by the museum’s senior curator, Miranda Lash, and associate curator, Leilani Lynch. RedLine is an important and influential Denver arts nonprofit; in a state that consistently ranks among the lowest for state-funded arts initiatives, it fills a huge need. In addition to being a gallery and educational space, it grants two-year residencies to artists, many of whom are local. Breakthroughs celebrates its 15th anniversary and spans the museum’s three floors.
The first floor features Tya Anthony’s sculptural paintings; a kaleidoscopic ceramic and found object installation by Marsha Mack; Daisy Patton’s bright, painted photographic portraits; two mixed-media assemblages by Suchitra Mattai; and four works by Tony Ortega. Ortega’s works are less conspicuous than the pieces on this floor, but no less evocative. His lithograph “Del Norte” (2022) depicts a pickup truck full of migrant workers on their way to the small town of Del Norte, Colorado. Aztec figures shine through the image, almost imperceptibly. In “Western Union con animalitos” (2022), figures of Mexican laborers are painted on Western Union forms that are used to send money to Mexico from the United States. Behind it all, animalitos appear like shadows. The works blur time and vibrate with hundreds of years of culture, art, spirit, and history.
The second floor celebrates RedLine’s conceptual artists. Amber Cobb explores the sensuality of an invented language in the new paintings “Felt Pink” (2023), “Squat the Rock” (2023), and “Beyond Compare” (2023). We see Sammy Seung-Min Lee’s Arrived (2016–ongoing), a chilling installation of a dozen suitcases wrapped in black paper; a room devoted to Gretchen Marie Schaefer’s paper mâché rocks; Trey Duvall’s kinetic installation IN/TRACTION 002: Ladders (2023); and Ben Coleman’s installation Eavesdroppings (Exchange) (2022–23), which explores modern surveillance with very unmodern objects — tin cans and string.
In another room, Mario Zoots’s wall-hanging sculpture, “The Broken Narrative” (2022), wraps around the corner and its wonky trapezoid of torn, painted book covers spread across the walls like a virus. Ashley Eliza Williams’s oil paintings deftly compare the sublime organization of the natural world and the artist’s process through axonometric-like views of both. “Squid and Data (communication attempt)” (2022) shows a dissected squid alongside color studies and what looks like the artist’s actual palette. Jeff Page’s video “Throat Chaqra Therapy” (2020), simultaneously pokes fun at and pays homage to the body’s strength and frailty.
The second floor provides the best view of Ana María Hernando’s three bright, peach-colored tulle explosions — “Cuando bailamos I &II” and “La tierra me canta al oído” (2023) — which are hung around the museum. The perfection of their geometric ovals and one rectangle clash joyfully with the lushness of the tulle.
Foundling, a new series of gouache paintings by Rebecca Vaughn, is on the lower level, as well as several emotionally brilliant, texturally vibrant films by Eileen Roscina and Alicia Ordal’s “Birdsmouth” (2023), an assemblage comprised of a preposterously small ladder leaning against two large, granite-like shapes made of foam. It’s a curious, funny piece and I wish more of her work was on view. Also on the lower level is Sweaty Wedding (2020–2022), Juntae Teejay Hwang’s multi-work installation of shiny, stoneware creatures — impeccably crafted and many of which are covered in droplets of sweat. Like all good jokes, Sweaty Wedding is hilarious at first glance, but further attention reveals a pointed, astute view of human behavior — how hard it is to hide our messy selves.
Breakthroughs is certainly a celebration of RedLine’s artists, but it’s also a celebration of the incredible variety in artistic expression. To stand before a sculpture, installation, film, painting, or drawing is to acknowledge another perspective, another view, another human being. Breakthroughs, and RedLine itself, are as much about exhibiting the artist’s impulse to connect as about showcasing the pieces themselves.
Breakthroughs: A Celebration of RedLine at 15 continues at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (1485 Delgany St, Denver, CO) until May 28. The exhibition is juried by Sarah Kate Baie, MCA Denver’s Director of Programming; Jaime Carrejo, RedLine Alumni Artist; Miranda Lash, MCA Senior Curator; Leilani Lynch, MCA Associate Curator; and Louise Martorano, Executive Director of RedLine Contemporary Art Center.