“La inclusión de mi raza” by Gabriel Rico is a new downtown public art

RTD donated an old trash can. The state forest service sent in a tree stump. Iconic clothing store Rockmount Ranch Wear originated a pair of cowboy boots.

Others donated skis, toys, furniture and musical instruments. A guy sent a coffin; Turns out his clan decided to cremate the family matriarch instead of burying her in the ground, and so he didn’t really need it.

Coloradans from afar have answered the call to send in items — random items — that could be part of artist Gabriel Rico’s towering public sculptures that debuted in downtown Denver’s Tail Tracks Plaza this month- this.

Now there they are, united in five totem poles spread across the hardscape public park that rise up to 17 feet off the ground. Want to know who we are, as our stuff tells? Spend some time wandering among the kayaks, bicycles, traffic cones and bar stools assembled in Rico’s piece, titled “La inclusión de mi raza.”

“La inclusión de mi raza” will be in place until November 13 at the Tail Tracks Plaza downtown. (Provided by the Black Cube Nomadic Museum)

This name translates to “The Inclusion of My Race”, although the work is not necessarily race-specific. The totality of objects transcends the already obscure categories we use to describe ourselves and distinguish our identities. Theoretically, the coins could have been donated by anyone, from any background, and in this way multiple races are included.

Rico goes to something deeper than how we relate to each other, exploring how humans relate to objects. He takes these assorted things out of their usual context and the common associations we have with them, and asks us to reconsider them on their own. It gives them a real and undeniable presence in the universe, an agency independent of who owns or uses them.

Then he adds a mystical layer using augmented reality which makes the piece fully interactive. Download an on-the-spot app, point your phone (or one of the free loaner tablets) at work, and other realistic creatures appear on screen: a cougar, fox, bear, and moose.

Augmented reality technology allows a virtual moose and a skeleton to walk through the public artwork “La inclusión de mi raza”. This photo is taken through an electronic tablet. (Provided by the Black Cube Nomadic Museum)

Beyond, other moving and more human objects become visible, beings that seem to have been brought to life from anatomical drawings. A skeleton walks around, as does something resembling a disembodied cardiovascular system, nervous system, and muscular system. None of the objects have actual skin or hair, so again this includes race.

If you’ve never experienced augmented reality, the exhibit offers an easy introduction. It’s a strange and adventurous treasure hunt, in search of these elusive creatures. But once you locate them, you can walk up to them and walk around them and look at things from all angles. The tech is easy to use, especially for kids used to the screen life, but there is a staff member on hand if you need help (Wednesday-Sunday 11am-7pm but the tech operates 24/7).

What you do with all this information provided by Rico is pretty much up to you. A viewer can simply sit back and marvel at the accumulation of trash rising into the air. The engineering is a marvel, with the large objects welded together at the bottom of each totem forming a support structure that stabilizes the objects above. Augmented reality is not a prerequisite to appreciate the work.

But a challenge is there, if you will, to decipher the room and consider all the things you have and whether you need them or not, or – to flip that notion – whether they need them or not. you. After all, much of the core materials on display, made from plastic, metal and the like, will be around long after you’re gone; these objects have a life of their own and a relationship to the planet and to each other that has nothing to do with you.

Most of the items in “La inclusión de mi raza” were donated by the local community. (Provided by the Black Cube Nomadic Museum)

And one facet of the work of art (and that’s just one), the inescapable idea that we can own and produce more things than we need, resonates especially deeply in downtown. from Denver. Totems are close to revamped Union Station and swanky spots like the Museum of Contemporary Art, and a nearly new Whole Foods and tons of expensive hotels and restaurants that all seem to serve raw seafood in a city that is far from any ocean.

But they also exist among the homeless, in a region where drug use is rampant and our country’s mental health crisis is in the open. Looking at all this disposable trash, in a place where some humans keep all their earthly possessions in a shopping cart, raises a lot to think about.

In all these respects, “La inclusión de mi raza” is a successful work of public art: fun and colorful, deep and disturbing, big and inescapable and full of ambition. Gabriel Rico is one of the most sought after artists in the hemisphere these days. His work appears in exhibitions and art fairs around the world. He is represented by OMR, a leading gallery in Mexico City, and is busy enough to employ half a dozen full-time workers at his home studio in Guadalajara, Mexico.

There is a sense of playfulness in his work and numerous references to art history that elevate his thoughtful constructs. It is possible to relate his methods to a list of important artistic movements, from collage to assemblage and all kinds of abstractions. His use of found objects undoubtedly updates the “ready-mades” that art icon Marcel Duchamp created in the mid-20th century. There is even a toilet among the elements of “La inclusión de mi raza” mirroring the urinal Duchamp used in his most famous play, “Fountain”.

At the same time, the new room is intimate, inclusive, community-driven and collaborative. It was curated by Cortney Lane Stell, of the Black Cube Nomadic Art Museum, and sponsored by the Biennale of the Americas. The two Denver-based organizations have been responsible for an abundance of world-class public art over the past decade.

“La inclusión de mi raza” is, in a sense, what you make of it. For some it will be a pile of garbage, for others a reflection of who they are and what they have. But it’s an opportunity for everyone to see this city from another angle, and not necessarily a human one.

If you are going to

“La inclusión de mi raza” continues through November 13 at Tail Tracks Plaza, 16th Street between Wynkoop and Wewatta streets. Info and interviews with the artist online at blackcube.art or biennaloftheamericas.org.

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Christopher S. Washington