Colorado CRUSH 2017, Denver’s Ever Expanding Annual Aerosol Art Festival, Captures Welcoming Vibe of the Mile High City

Posted by Billyjam, September 16, 2017 04:13pm | Post a Comment
This Colorado CRUSH 2017 piece is by Phero, Mpek, and Brian Scott Hampton. For more info
on pictures of art from CRUSH in this Amoeblog put cursor/mouse over image.

Denver’s annual Colorado CRUSH (Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony) art festival has grown exponentially since its comparatively small beginnings as a local event back in 2000. Now in its eight year Colorado CRUSH 2017 has grown into a large scale, vibrant, fun, annual aerosol art festival attracting artists and art fans from all over. Happening all this week (Sept 11 - 17), Colorado CRUSH 2017  features 130 different artists. While its participants are predominantly local, many of the CRUSH artists are invited in from around the USA as well as from other countries. These artists’ work fill walls all over Denver’s RiNo district and beyond as outlined in this CRUSH map. Like the city of Denver, CRUSH is a laid back, warm, welcoming and unpretentious affair. Even when CRUSH is not taking place as a city Denver is visibly welcoming to outdoor and people with spray cans in hand, unlike so many other cities. 

Among the many artists this year are Dragon 76, Michael Ortiz, Jher, Vyal, HAXXOH, Sepia, Mike Graves, The London Posse, Ease One, LovePusher, RumTurnBoogie, Statik and Balance313. The latter is a Kuwait artist who flew in from LA where he has lived in the Inglewood district for the past two years. 

As CRUSH has grown and evolved this decade so too has the city around it. The once rough and tumble neighborhood where CRUSH is centered, the arts district christened RiNo (River North) that sits within Denver's larger Five Points district, has in recent years undergone major development (gentrification?): one benefitting in part from a robust new economy fueled by the legalization of cannabis in January 2014. In the area where CRUSH takes place new apartment complexes are being built all over. However there’s still lots of open spaces and available open walls for CRUSH artists to craft their pieces onto. Some of these walls as canvases are a mile or so out from the festival’s epicenter by the Denver Central Market (Larimer at 27th) including the huge wide wall near York and 39th streets where the artists Patrick Kane McGregor, BABY 168, and Joker have a collaborative piece in progress. Map.

Colorado CRUSH was founded in 2010 by longtime Colorado street artist Robin Monroe (aka artist DREAD who has a piece in CRUSH) with the later addition of Jon Lamb (of Denver’s Like Minded Productions) joining as curator. An artist himself with an appreciation of massive outdoor art events, for years now Lamb has been making annual trips to Florida for the long-running Art Basel in Miami Beach (next one Dec 7-10), which it appears has positively influenced CRUSH. In past years Lamb’s curating duties also included planning the hip-hop music part of the festival which for the past couple of years has been dropped unfortunately.  Lamb was included in the previous Amoeblog reviews of Colorado CRUSH 2014 and Colorado Crush 2015.  2015 was also the year that Lindsey R. Hendershot joined the CRUSH team to work in planning and economic development. Speaking briefly with the Amoeblog yesterday Hendershot noted how her job duties include the all important task of fund raising/sponsorship for this multi-faceted affair. CRUSH is endorsed and supported by the City of Denver and funded by numerous sponsors who provide cash or goods and services.

Thanks to the festival's planners, CRUSH provides its artists with all of their needed materials. Furthermore artists visiting from out of state or from overseas get their airfare and accommodation taken care of too. “This is just a great event,” said UK artist LovePusher yesterday taking a break during day four of his five days dedicated to working on his painting. A long, wide, large colorful piece (see artist at work in above pic) it is in a parking lot just off Larimer between 25th/26th. LovePusher's piece, which is entitled MAGIC and stretches the large scale side of a building, will be finished up by this afternoon. Today he had company of a bunch of aspiring young artists (ages 5 - 15) doing collaborative pieces on ten sheets of plywood as canvas leaning on the fence on the opposite side of the narrow parking lot in an event sponsored by the local library. Entitled CRUSH Kids Paint Wall an example of one just completed piece appears below. As well as sighting school groups touring CRUSH, I noticed a lot more kids this year and many more families with young kids in tow: all equally in awe of the large scale art done from cans of paint.

Today and tomorrow are the two main days of Colorado CRUSH 2017 when most visit the (free) event. Most of the art work is being finished up today/tomorrow or is already completed. Today and tomorrow is when all the booths are set up at 2600 Larimer including folks from the upcoming Breakin Convention Denver 2017. Happening Nov 4/5 at Denver Center for Performing Arts, that event will feature TASTE who is also one of the contributing CRUSH 2017 artists. Of the festival’s 130 participating artists many waited until today (Saturday) to begin work on their respective art pieces. These included the trio of Pol Corona, Pedro Barrios, and Jaime Molina whose collaborative one-day piece has the distinction of not being aerosol paint based (although they may add a little to their piece which they plan to finish by later today). Instead they have rollers and brushes and latex paint that they use with precision. Barrios and Molina are two established local Denver artists (Molina also has a piece over at the Temple). Meanwhile the French born Pol Corona lives in Spain. He flew into Denver recently commissioned to work on a (non-CRUSH festival) piece that stretches approx 1000’ on a wall alongside Denver’s Cherry Creek and will be completed in one week. Both that piece and the CRUSH collaborative piece (both below) feature the artist’s trademark monkey character.

Monday was the first day that artists could begin working on their pieces. While many waited til the last couple of days, many spread their work out over the full week. The benefit of this as a fan is that you can frequently stop by over several days (or hours) and watch a piece of art slowly unfold and blossom in front of your eyes. On Thursday afternoon around 2pm the duo of Resa Piece and Menace-Two, in from NY, had just begun work on a two-car scale garage door. The door as canvas sits on the alley parallel and between Larimer and Walnut streets, near 25th. With a piece of paper in hand containing their the main image (woman’s face), Resa Piece began by sketching out a large silhouette on the garage door. Working closely together in an intense, focused session, over the next five hours the duo completed their entire piece. Both images are below, five hours apart. Although completed early both artists did more work on other pieces since.

Further up that same art adorned alley was hometown artist Mike Graves (Mike Roane) who had a much larger allotted wall space for his mural. He had taken advantage of having a full week to work on his large scale piece. 30 foot high and about as wide he patiently sprayed layer after layer of paint while on the ground below five milk crates overflowing with dozens of cans of paint sat awaiting his call. The artist echoed the sentiment of other artists saying how cool it is to have all the supplies taken care of by CRUSH from all the paint, to the ladders and industrial painters lifts that make working so much easier. The festival also provides some artists with heavy duty lighting for after dark painting. One insight that Mike Graves provided as a longtime CRUSH follower was that he felt that over the years that the festival had evolved from being mostly more graf-styled pieces to now mainly murals.

On Thursday evening at the Temple Arts Studio was the engaging informative “Graffiti Lecture” by Santa Fe, NM art ambassador and “writer” JOERAEL. Temple was a run down former church building on Curtis at 24th until it was rescued in recent years and converted in an arts space. DETOUR has a studio in the building.Outside his work is on the wall. So too is JODRAEL's. Yesterday the artist was at work on his large scale piece for CRUSH of Temple as he neared completion. The previous evening the passionate artist referenced  it during his ninety minute lecture.

JORAEL also provided a neat overview of the vast history of graffiti street art including its many nuanced styles and subsets. By incorporating photo and video examples via projector.images on the wall he helped paint a perfect picture. These images were from all over: the work of artists in Denver as well as faraway places like Pittsburg, Poland, Brazil, Afghaniztan, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area. Whether regional or stylistic JOERAEL connected the dots of the many divergent backgrounds of street art. He nodded to the roles of such influential pioneers as PHASE 2 and Futura 2000, and noted the heavy metal lettering/graffiti connection using an Iron Maiden example.

pointed out how some styles involve the writer working under the pressure of having to complete his/her piece in a rushed very short time. Others involve an artist having to use all of his/her body in wide arm waving movements while doing a large scale piece in a public place. He discussed Bomb, Bombing, and Throwies and noted defined styles such as “memorial” pieces (done for fallen fellow street artists), and “production” pieces that typically involve a collective of artists on very big scale piece (legal or illegal). He talked about graffiti artists who evolved into scenic painting styles and, if you are a fellow writer, how you can immediately tell if someone’s roots are in graffiti. JOERAEL’s lecture fittingly included references to many of the artists and their pieces in CRUSH 2017 including visiting UK artist Mr. Cenz whose piece (on 27th behind Cold Crush, pictured below) captured what he described as a melding of “graf wild style with portraiture elements.”  JOERAEL’s lecture also noted the evolvement of street art in 2017 with the “power of social media” and its grip on how ideas are shared, and with such immediacy.

Temple is also the space that houses a working studio of hometown mixed media artist DETOUR (previously interviewed by the Amoeblog) who has a piece on the walls outside Temple, alongside both JOERAEL and Molina. But, painted months ago, it is not officially a part of CRUSH 2017. Over on 27th Street DETOUR has two pieces in this year’s festival, one of which he is still working on today. These include his large portrait of Charles Mingus outside Nocturne and another, one of Maxine Waters, that he has been mad busy working on today on the outside wall of Cold Crush on 27th near Larimer. His Mingus piece (also pictured above) is on the opposite side of the street half a block down on the outside of the recently opened Nocturne jazz & supper club. DETOUR told the Amoeblog that venue owner Scott had suggested the subject and requested that DETOUR do one new jazz themed portrait for every upcoming CRUSH festival. Sadly the fate the artist's Maxine Waters' portrait is uncertain. That is because Cold Crush, where tonight will be the official CRUSH closing party,will be moving out of their location in a month, relocating their hip-hop bar/club to a more affordable space over on Colfax. This is due to the aforementioned "development" of the rapidly developing area with rents going up. The sad irony here is that when the hip-hop titled bar first opened up shop on the corner of Larimer and 27th, it was among the first of a new influx of music and arts friendly entities to do so. In the almost five years since Cold Crush saw its surrounding neighborhood  grow into a vibrant, cool, happening, desirable and (ultimately) too expensive pr: one that they helped create and define.

Directly across the street from Cold Crush is the Meadowlark Kitchen on whose inside walls DETOUR’s framed work is exclusively exhibited including some of his interactive sound pieces. DETOUR fan and Meadowlark Kitchen owner Casey Karns called CRUSH 2017 “the best” yet. Last night Karns invited (non CRUSH 2017 participating) artist SIGNTOLOGIST to do some of his unique work in the outside patio of the Meadowlark Kitchen. Real name Dan Ericson, SIGNTOLOGIST was hard at work on some of his speciality: street sign based work. A few doors further down Larimer last night at the Larimer Lounge was a well attended CRUSH party.

The CRUSH Exhibit Booths are open today and tomorrow (Sep 18 & 19) at 2600 Larimer Street. The official CRUSH closing party will take place tonight 8pm to 11pm at Cold Crush on the corner of 27th and Larimer.  Even though Colorado CRUSH 2017 ends tomorrow Sunday, Sept 17th, that is just the opening exhibit part of the outdoor art exhibit that lasts 12 months.  As noted by the organizers of CRUSH: The walls are up and open for your enjoyment year-round.   Map + More info.


Relevant Tags

Denver (6), Colorado Crush 2017 (1), Lamb (1), Aerosol Art (2), Dragon 76 (1), Detour (2), Temple Arts Studio (1), Meadowlark Kitchen (1), Signtologist (1)