The Denver Post

BALL of IN­CLU­SION

Clark Richert’s flash­ing piece of pub­lic art lights up the sky and in­vites some deep think­ing

- By Ray Mark Ri­naldi

Clark Richert has long had a way of us­ing art to model com­plex ideas about math and sci­ence. He’s been work­ing out meth­ods for em­ploy­ing line and color to in­ter­pret rich con­cepts of geom­e­try and arith­metic for more than half a cen­tury, re­main­ing one of Colorado’s lead­ing voices in ab­strac­tion the en­tire time.

His ob­jects can feel like home­work. Un­der­stand­ing them might chal­lenge you to dive into dif­fi­cult the­o­ries about how the world works and to de­ci­pher lan­guages that few peo­ple, out­side of those in aca­demic fields, ac­tu­ally use. If you don’t know what a poly­he­dron is, then you re­ally don’t even have a start­ing point.

But the rea­son Richert’s work is

so ef­fec­tive, pop­u­lar, pleas­ing, ex­pen­sive is that it de­liv­ers on a purely vis­ual level, as well. His col­or­ful lay­outs on can­vas and in 3- D form, of­ten large- scale, rely on re­lent­less pat­tern­ing that is pleas­ing to the eye.

When I start to get a headache from the back­ground of a Richert piece, I stop read­ing the writ­ten ma­te­ri­als that al­ways ac­com­pany the work and sim­ply look at it.

That is usu­ally enough re­ward.

His new­est work, Quadriv­ium, a pub­lic sculp­ture in­stalled this sum­mer on East 20th Street near Gle­n­arm Place in Den­ver, in­vites the long­est of looks and does so in the most en­ter­tain­ing ways. It’s a won­der of flash­ing lights and chang­ing col­ors, a puls­ing, sur­faceshift­ing orb that lights up the night sky in a quiet sec­tion of down­town. Pat­terns emerge, con­verge and dis­ap­pear at a mes­mer­iz­ing

pace.

At 14 feet in di­am­e­ter, and with a con­stant bar­rage of green, blue, pink and pur­ple con­stantly com­ing at the viewer, it’s des­tined to be a land­mark. The piece can be a bit clunky in the day­light when it turns flat, but when dark­ness falls, Quadriv­ium goes all Las Ve­gas on you: blink, blink, whirl, swirl, re­peat.

In com­mon lan­guage, you could describe the piece as a sphere made from 30 flat, di­a­mond­shaped, alu­minum pan­els. You could also call it a tri­a­con­ta­he­dron with 30 rhombi, if you want to go there.

More im­por­tant, per­haps, is un­der­stand­ing what Richert hopes it can ac­com­plish.

The ti­tle Quadriv­ium, he ex­plains in his notes, refers to “the Me­dieval univer­sity cur­ricu­lum in­volv­ing the math­e­mat­i­cal arts of arith­metic, geom­e­try, cos­mos and mu­sic.” It was a holis­tic ap­proach to teach­ing that rec­og­nizes how hard sci­ence and hu­man cre­ativ­ity con­nect to­gether.

And so what can we learn from this ball of bril­liant things? Like a lot of ideas from Richert, who has con­sis­tently weaved to­gether the con­cepts be­hind his work in a way that makes them eas­ier to un­der­stand, the an­swer goes back decades.

The con­cept for Quadriv­ium has roots in a lec­ture he at­tended in 1965 at the Univer­sity of Colorado Boul­der de­liv­ered by Buck­min­ster Fuller, the ar­chi­tect/ thinker best known for con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing the ge­o­desic dome. Fuller’s ideas have been a cru­cial and last­ing in­flu­ence on Richert’s work.

Richert ex­plains: “Bucky talked about a ‘ World Game,’ which would be played on the GeoS­cope — a 200- foot- di­am­e­ter ge­o­desic sphere cov­ered with tiny light bulbs that de­picted a world globe and its re­sources and chal­lenges.”

Fuller en­vi­sioned hang­ing the sphere over wa­ter in the prox­im­ity of the United Na­tions so world lead­ers could use it in their at­tempts to solve in­ter­na­tional prob­lems. They could play a game that would ben­e­fit hu­man­ity.

Quadriv­ium repli­cates the idea on a smaller scale, and in a more ab­stract way. There’s a moth- to- a- flame qual­ity to it with the po­ten­tial to bring peo­ple to­gether, and around some­thing built upon sci­ence- based, uni­ver­sal prin­ci­ples we all share. Com­mon­al­ity glows in the ra­di­ant hues that Quadriv­ium casts off.

Richert hopes it “lights up and in­spires view­ers,” as he puts it, “with far- reach­ing, pos­i­tive ef­fects in the Den­ver com­mu­nity and be­yond.”

Star­ing for just a few mo­ments, it’s easy to buy into his vi­sion, as wide- eyed as it sounds. Quadriv­ium is a metic­u­lously con­structed piece of art, sturdy like a space­ship, and al­lur­ing with its high- tech LED light pat­terns.

The piece was en­gi­neered and

as­sem­bled by the fab­ri­ca­tion team at Den­ver’s El­men­dorf Geurts stu­dio, which clearly un­der­stood its in­ten­tions. They built an ob­ject that’s peo­ple­friendly — there’s a fun and funky, 1960s- era, sci- fi feel to it — but also larger- than- life and con­fi­dent in its ma­te­ri­als and bear­ing.

It com­mands at­ten­tion with­out try­ing to over- awe any­one. You can imag­ine peo­ple gath­er­ing around it in a fit of cu­rios­ity.

Two peo­ple, to­tal strangers, stopped to ask me what it was as I was look­ing at it one re­cent night. I told them what I knew — avoid­ing the word “tri­a­con­ta­he­dron” for their sake and mine — and we shared a few mo­ments tak­ing it in.

Much of Quadriv­ium’s suc­cess is due to its place­ment, in a park­ing lot next to a shut­tered restau­rant build­ing that was last called Bella Vista and next to sev­eral other lots that are, for now, un­used.

It’s a dark place, with­out a lot of ar­chi­tec­tural or com­mer­cial con­text, and there’s lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion for at­ten­tion, mak­ing it a good venue for the work’s pub­lic in­tro­duc­tion.

The piece was com­mis­sioned by lo­cal de­vel­oper Amy Har­mon, who is putting to­gether a mixe­duse com­plex. Har­mon takes her lumps as a de­vel­oper in­fil­trat­ing neigh­bor­hoods that don’t al­ways want what she wants, but her track record on com­pleted projects is solid.

She’s a phi­lan­thropist who re­spects qual­ity de­sign, liv­abil­ity, ur­ban char­ac­ter and the role that art and cul­ture can play in com­mu­nity- build­ing. She plans to keep any con­struc­tion rel­a­tively low- rise and peo­ple­friendly.

No mat­ter where Quadriv­ium ends up in the com­pleted project, it’s easy to see it as a cen­ter­piece for some sort of com­mon space where peo­ple will be in­vited to come to­gether, for­mally or in­for­mally. It will have plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to work any magic that’s built into it.

View­ers can get into its arith­metics or they can just get into its rhythms. Both op­tions, like this one- of- a- kind piece of pub­lic art, prom­ise to be en­dur­ing.

 ?? Daniel Tseng, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post ?? Clark Richert’s Quadriv­ium is made from alu­minum, LED lights and video. A new de­vel­op­ment is slated for the cor­ner with con­struc­tion set to start soon.
Daniel Tseng, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post Clark Richert’s Quadriv­ium is made from alu­minum, LED lights and video. A new de­vel­op­ment is slated for the cor­ner with con­struc­tion set to start soon.
 ?? Daniel Tseng, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post ?? Clark Richert’s new sculp­ture, Quadriv­ium, was in­stalled this sum­mer on East 20th Street near Gle­n­arm Place in down­town Den­ver.
Daniel Tseng, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post Clark Richert’s new sculp­ture, Quadriv­ium, was in­stalled this sum­mer on East 20th Street near Gle­n­arm Place in down­town Den­ver.
 ?? Pro­vided by El­men­dorf Geurts ?? Clark Richert, in­side his new­est piece, Quadriv­ium, a won­der of flash­ing lights and chang­ing col­ors, a puls­ing, sur­face- shift­ing orb.
Pro­vided by El­men­dorf Geurts Clark Richert, in­side his new­est piece, Quadriv­ium, a won­der of flash­ing lights and chang­ing col­ors, a puls­ing, sur­face- shift­ing orb.
 ?? Pro­vided by Rule Gallery ?? Clark Richert has been work­ing out meth­ods for em­ploy­ing line and color to in­ter­pret rich con­cepts of geom­e­try and arith­metic for more than half a cen­tury.
Pro­vided by Rule Gallery Clark Richert has been work­ing out meth­ods for em­ploy­ing line and color to in­ter­pret rich con­cepts of geom­e­try and arith­metic for more than half a cen­tury.
 ?? Daniel Tseng, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post ?? Quadriv­ium refers to an early, math- based education sys­tem with four pil­lars: arith­metic, mu­sic, geom­e­try and as­tron­omy.
Daniel Tseng, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post Quadriv­ium refers to an early, math- based education sys­tem with four pil­lars: arith­metic, mu­sic, geom­e­try and as­tron­omy.

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