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After a turbulent year, four artists share their visions of the future
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Rick Griffith, Colorado in the Present Tense at MCA Denver
Rick Griffith at the MCA Denver in his display titled "Tools."

DENVER — The world-altering events of 2020, from the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice movement, and presidential election, have left a permanent mark on our country.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver), an exhibit shows how four artists are “responding to and reimagining the upended world in which we presently find ourselves.”

The exhibit, titled Colorado in the Present Tense, displays the work of Narkita Gold, Rick Griffith, Nathan Hall, and Maia Ruth Lee. All four artists are based in Colorado.

“Many of the artists created new work, added to existing work … that was in direct response to much of the tumultuousness of 2020,” said Nora Burnett Abrams, the museum’s director. “Through their interpretations and their responses, we ourselves are able to reflect on our own experiences over this very long year.”

Colorado Voices

Colorado in the Present Tense

The exhibit highlights the work of four artists based in Colorado after a tumultuous year

Griffith’s quarter of the exhibition is titled Tools. The activist, designer, and artist has been a leader in the Denver creative community for many years. His sketchbooks, collages, and posters are displayed in a gallery format on the walls of MCA Denver.

By showing the original sketches and collages with the final product posters, Griffith demonstrates he’s “committed to not only helping others gain the tools for insight and protest, but also how he grows as an artist,” said Miranda Lash, a curator at the museum.

For Griffith, one of the most important results of a year of protests against injustice has been the ongoing dialogue about race in America.

“What’s important when we look at our society, when we look at social action and our communities, is that we find room for lots of conversations, not just one,” Griffith said.

Conversations like “why Black imaginations matter, and why the intuition and intellect of Black people make a difference in our various geographies and our various regions.”

Griffith’s favorite piece on display is a meandering, scattered visualization of his creative process that resembles a very confusing map. “It’s attempting to reach inside the process of thinking, and the process of making from thought, and it wants everyone to find their own place,” Griffith said. “It’s my favorite piece in the room, because it has the greatest capacity for connection.”

A look inside Rick Griffith's creative process

Various forms of art are represented in Colorado in the Present Tense. Hall, for example, explores the “sonic arc of 2020” with an outdoor soundscape, while Gold shows “uniqueness of Denver's Black community” in her photography series Black in Denver.

“I want visitors to have a really meaningful and special and memorable experience,” Abram said, “and I want them to feel extremely proud to live in a state where there are such creative voices that are exploring the ideas that we’re all deeply impacted by and affected by.”

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