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