New Brutal is Back

Derrick Velasquez on his Black Cube Alumni Project

Derrick Velasquez, New Brutal 2, 2016, detail

Cortney Lane Stell: To begin, tell us a little about New Brutal 2. Where did this project come from? How is it similar and/or different from your Black Cube project last year New Brutal?

Derrick Velasquez: New Brutal 2 came from an opportunity given to me by the Denver Architectural Foundation and Doors Open Denver to revisit some of the issues I took on in my first version of the piece. Instead of being a vertical structure, this one will take on a triangular horizontal layout and reference a pediment.

CLS: Can you tell us a little bit about this new site and your interest in it?

DV: The site will be an amphitheater in La Alma/Lincoln Park. I lived in the Lincoln Park Neighborhood on the east side of Santa Fe for 6 years and teach at Metro State, so I'm familiar with the park. The housing in the area is going through a major change. They basically knocked down a lot of out dated housing and are putting the new "modern" condo and apartment buildings up. The new Mariposa Development under the DHA is more mixed income, which is vital to the stability of Denver's housing issues. I found the amphitheater in the park to spatially intriguing. It should be a place to gather however I was not familiar with particular events that happen there regularly. Ultimately I like its aesthetics. It is slightly sunken and has a number of gently sloping ramps that point towards the front of the amphitheater.

Derrick Velasquez, New Brutal 2, 2016, La Alma/Lincoln Park

CLS: Will New Brutal 2 have the same materials as the first sculpture? Can you explain your interest in these materials?

DV: New Brutal 2 will be the same materials as the first sculpture. I would call them cheap materials like 2x4s, OSB, and tyvek will make up a bulk of the structure. These are the exact same materials they are using to build all of the new housing in that area. These common building materials which can be bought at Home Depot are not only ubiquitous throughout Denver, but in all cities across the country that are growing. I may not be completely interested in the materials themselves, but that I see them everywhere in new construction in Denver makes me feel like I'm connected to them whether I want to be or not.

CLS: Where do the crown molding forms come from?

DV: They are mostly made of a high density foam. This is what you would commonly see in a fancy house or or some new hotel. However the materials modern and removed from the original forms which would have been plaster or even wood. I also have some custom CNCd pieces that are made of MDF. I designed these based on some motifs found at the Versailles as well as some Moroccan patterns. They are meant to act as a false stand in for something that American culture really has no connection to - also for pure decoration.

CLS: Tell us about your thoughts on Denver’s building boom and its relationship to this body of work.

DV: I don't think I really expected to make work "about" the housing market and it aesthetics. It's really unfortunate for anyone who enjoys less traffic or eclectic buildings that haven't been flipped into a new creative capital venture...or dispensary. It's really unfortunate for artists who simply can't have the money to own a space whether it be living or working. At any point anything can be sold and taken away from working artists in this city. It affects my psychology every day. However, I hope the works remains closer to neutral than my personal feelings. It's not meant to be overly subversive but it is meant to stand out and make an oblique connection to a range of building and architecture.

Derrick Velasquez, New Brutal 2, 2016, detail

CLS: What does it mean to partner on this project with Denver Architectural Foundation and Doors Open Denver?

DV: I think it's incredible that the Denver Architectural Foundation and Doors Open Denver are helping support this project. That they found something in my original structure to ask for another and help fund it means that an exchange of ideas and aesthetics is happening. I would love to see more of these kinds of partnerships that help the artists and the city make profound headway into where the city of Denver might be going.

CLS: What’s it like being the first Black Cube Alumni Project?

DV: It feels great! I feel a bit of pressure being the first especially seeing what Stephanie Kantor pulled off in San Antonio and what will be in store for the year to come. Although there was little time to let the original ‘New Brutal’ sink in before I was offered this opportunity, I want to keep this idea fresh for my new installation.

Derrick Velasquez, New Brutal 2, 2016, La Alma/Lincoln Park

CLS: Can you explain for us the tension between the sculptural structure and the crown molding that is decorating it?

DV: I suppose the tension lies more so in the reference of baroque ornamentation and European influence on American cities and how that is fading due to the reduced modernist aesthetic in new Denver construction. It would probably be absurd to put this kind of crown molding on the exterior of a new condo as they are very square and the trim molding motifs I had fabricated were meant to accentuate curved and grandiose structures. By plopping the trim molding onto these low materials, I hope people see the disconnect between the two.

CLS: Do you see this project continuing to develop?

DV: I'm really not sure. Some of the materials have already found their way into my studio and the near future will probably be the gallery version of bits and pieces of research from this New Brutal series. Working on this scale is fun but I find myself itching to make more compact ideas in my work, to really explode a year of research and see what can be pieced back together.