Thomas “Detour” Evans is already known for his bold murals, striking celebrity portraits, and interactive art displays. Soon, though, he’ll have some more line items for his resume: book binding, costume design, motorcycle fabrication, harp building, museum curation, and time travel.
These skills, along with his painterly ones, will tie together the Denver artist’s most ambitious project to date. Opening in the RedLine Contemporary Art Center on November 8, Evans’ Afrofuturistic exhibit, called The 5 Pointers, will transform the space into a Graceland-esque museum. Much like Elvis’ home in Memphis, Tennessee, the gallery will be a memorabilia-packed mecca for fans of the 5 Pointers. Don’t panic if you’re not familiar—Evans invented them. Oh, and that time travel bit? The museum is set in the year 2120.
The idea, Evans says, grew from his desire to weave his various art forms into one cohesive story. A lover of music and performance, Evans incorporates sound in many of his pieces. (This September, he painted a wall at the Collective Game Lounge in Snowmass’ Base Village that plays a variety of chords when touched.) Telling the tale of a futuristic band felt like the next logical step.
Instead of putting the narrative on the pages of a book, though, Evans is creating a 4D timeline. As visitors walk through RedLine, they’ll be told each band member’s history, learn about the group’s challenges, and see items (most of which Evans is making himself) belonging to each musician, such as instruments and costumes. The exhibit will also provide context about the shifting political and social movements in the beginning of the 22nd century, when the 5 Pointers form, to show the interplay between the band and the world in which it exists. “The futuristic setting gives me more opportunities to create stuff no one has seen before,” Evans says. “But because it’s still our world, it’s rooted in reality.”
Reality, unfortunately, won’t be as bright as the color palette Evans uses: The artist imagines a world wracked by climate change, deliberately considering how the warming globe will impact culture, especially music. In the story he’s creating, rising sea levels will displace coastal residents and push them toward inland communities. “When people move around, they bring their culture, their sound, their colors,” says Evans. All that will collide in Denver, where the members of the 5 Pointers will meet and make music.
The changing climate won’t just impact the storyline, though. Evans has considered how resource scarcity will impact the type of item each band member carries. Take, for example, the notebook fictional vocalist Lola Divine uses to brainstorm lyrics. It’s made with seeded paper, an eco-friendly, biodegradable alternative studded with vegetable, flower, and herb seeds that grows when planted. Another character’s motorcycle runs on electricity.
Identity is also central to the experience Evans is trying to put together. During his career, he’s made a point of painting people of color to make sure his art celebrates diversity. The 5 Pointers will carry on that tradition. Most of the band members are black, which Evans says was a conscious choice—many futuristic science fiction stories don’t include black people, an oversight combatted by the increasing popularity of Afrofuturism (read more about it here).
Perhaps coolest of all, Evans has based each character on a friend of his within Denver’s music scene. The four will come together on select days throughout the month, including the launch party on November 8, to play a set on the instruments Evans created (a carpenter built each one, and Evans refurbished them in his RiNo studio). Each instrument resembles ones used today, but with a futuristic twist: the harp has two arches instead of one, and the turntable responds to touch, playing different notes as you slide your hand along the surface.
Evans says he isn’t sure what the band will sound like yet—he’s leaving it up to the musicians to experiment with the instruments. He also doesn’t know exactly what viewers will think of the exhibit, though he’s excited to find out. “My hope is that the exhibit will ask a question about the future,” he says, “rather than offer up a clean answer.”
If You Go: Red Bull Presents Detour’s 5 Pointers, November 8, 6-9 p.m., RedLine Contemporary Art Center, 2350 Arapahoe St., twoparts.com