a jolt of in­door en­ergy from den­ver’s big­gest out­door name

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Ray­Mark Ri­naldi Den­ver Post Fine Arts Critic

Jolt is the big­gest artist in town and he’s got the mu­ral to prove it. His 90foot-tall mash-up of im­ages on the fa­cade of the 1099 Osage apart­ment build­ing in west Den­ver is prob­a­bly the sin­gle largest paint­ing in the en­tire state.

It’s no mi­nor ad­just­ment for a guy known for­work­ing on such a grand scale to con­fine his ef­forts to the (rel­a­tively) small can­vases he has on dis­play cur­rently at the Leon space up­town. Artists who work out­side don’t tran­si­tion eas­ily into the in­door gallery world.

But Jolt is go­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent at Leon, switch­ing it up from the usual ur­ban in­ter­ven­tions we’ve seen him in­flict on walls and fences around town for the last 20 years. This show feels more like the in­ner-jour­ney of a fine artist than the brash pub­lic demon­stra­tions of a graf­fiti writer.

That’s not to say that, at 34, Jolt has grown up. There’s a youth­ful vibe to the whole thing, and that’s what really makes this show, ti­tled “The Art of War,” so ap­peal­ing. The artist, who picked up a spray can long be­fore he ever touched a paint brush, stays true to his roots.

The works are full of fields of color ap­plied via aerosol, that alternate from speck­led to dense. Lines cuts back and forth in the jags and swirls of street art. There are bursts of neon pink and green and in­flu­ences from comic books and an­i­ma­tion.

But th­ese aren’t quick ef­forts. Nor are they full of direct mes­sages ap­plied in pub­lic for mass consumption.

Jolt is tak­ing us in­side his head here, and it’s not all that pleas­ant a place to hang out. Sev­eral

paint­ings have him start­ing with ex­otic masks as his base mo­tif. They’re not friendly faces to be­gin with, and Jolt pulls them in ab­stract di­rec­tions, adding earthy el­e­ments of fire and­wa­ter to the scene, ex­ag­ger­at­ing their beastly vis­ages. What­ever demons hewas fac­ing in the stu­dio— and they re­main amys­tery— they’re still present in the fin­ished prod­uct.

It adds up to a depth of style that’s worlds away from the flat­ness of the art we en­counter in al­leys and on bridges and wa­ter tanks. Jolt lay­ers and lay­ers again, spray­ing, brush­ing, draw­ing and, along the way, con­fus­ing fore­ground with back­ground, mix­ing pur­pose­ful lines and ac­ci­den­tal drips. The work re­tains his sig­na­ture, but it’s le­git in that old fine arts way, too.

The showhas other as­pects to it. One paint­ing is ac­tu­ally done in or­ange-y oils, though it’s ap­plied with a squeegee. There are also a few pieces based on com­pli­cated, in­ter­lock­ing let­ters, the kind of work you ex­pect to see from a graf­fiti artist. The gallery’s front en­trance wall is dec­o­rated di­rectly with a piece Jolt did on­site, min­ing his fa­mil­iar ter­rain.

Jolt isn’t prov­ing his le­git­i­macy here. If any­thing, the show is more off-the-street than for­mal and or­derly and com­mer­cial. Jolt is hav­ing his gallery mo­ment hisway.

But the de­liv­ery sys­tem is op- er­at­ing in re­verse. Graf­fiti and mu­rals come to the peo­ple, they in­ter­ject them­selves into our lives and co-ex­ist with us on a daily ba­sis, even when we don’t want them to (which is of­ten, for a lot of folks).

A gallery show, by con­trast, de­mands that peo­ple come to it. It’s not an in­ter­ven­tion, but an in­vi­ta­tion. It has to serve as a gra­cious host, al­low in­ti­macy, make a per­sonal plea for our at­ten­tion. Jolt does all of that at Leon.

The artist Jolt, best known for his graf­fiti writ­ing and out­door mu­rals, shows off his other skills at Leon Gallery. Ray Mark Ri­naldi, Den­ver Post

Jolt’smask paint­ings started out as black-and­white sketches. He added lay­ers of color as part of his process. Pho­tos by Ray Mark Ri­naldi, Den­ver Post

Jolt is com­mis­sioned fre­quently to paint mu­rals around Den­ver. His largest cov­ers the fa­cade of the 1099 Osage apart­ment build­ing.

Jolt’s ab­stracted al­pha­bet paint­ings take on the pol­i­tics of lan­guage.

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