The 5280 Fall Arts and Entertainment Guide

A closer look at some of the most innovative artistic minds in the Front Range.

November 2009

What's The Big Idea?

Colin Livingston's work evokes our consumer culture with irony, wit—and just a little bit of hope.

Even casual art fans recognize Andy Warhol's iconic Campbell's soup cans or Roy Lichtenstein's comic book-like paintings. This December, a homegrown heir to these illustrious Pop Art practitioners is exhibiting right here in Denver.

Thornton-based Colin Livingston will showcase his "Post-Pop" sensibilities in "The Big Idea" at LoDo's Plus Gallery (December 4 to January 15). The exhibit mimics a retail store, with display racks, sign-age—even a cash register. The "products" are Livingston's graphically sleek and colorful paintings and sculptures, boxed up as if on sale at a big-box store. "I want it to be really overwhelming, like buying something in Wal-Mart," Livingston says. "That environment can be soulless and commercial, but it also can have the style of fine art."

Livingston grew up in Arvada and attended the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where his paintings mostly evoked somber impressions of his late mother, who committed suicide when Livingston was in the fifth grade. Over time, his message became more positive, as evidenced by his finishing flourish for "The Big Idea" pieces. Each one comes with six interchangeable stick-on logos with phrases such as "I Love You" or "Take Care"—seemingly trite clichés of positivity that Livingston, who became a first-time father of twins this summer, wishes people would heed more readily. "The phrases are life lessons from tragic events or moments of epiphany," he says. "It's about trying to remember and hang onto them."

This element of audience participation is what moves Livingston's work into the "Post-Pop" category. "[He's] pursuing a more complex level of engagement," says Plus Gallery owner and director Ivar Zeile, who has hosted three previous Livingston exhibitions. "He is definitely taking Pop Art into a new direction by allowing collectors to 'collaborate' on a painting to make it their own."

Colin Livingston, "The Big Idea," December 4-January 15, Plus Gallery, 2501 Larimer St., www.plusgallery.com