Spotlight: How ‘Artist-Centric’ Gallery K Contemporary Is Helping Transform the Denver Art Scene

The gallery is currently showing the work of Cuban-born artist Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos.

Installation view of "Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos: Frutas de la Passion" (2023). Courtesy of K Contemporary, Denver.

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About K Contemporary: Founded just over six years ago by Doug Kacena, K Contemporary has become a stalwart of contemporary art within the Denver, Colorado art scene. Kacena, an artist himself, has maintained an artist-forward approach to the gallery, focusing on platforming and uplifting a diverse roster of artists on both a regional and international scale. The success of this approach is evident in K Contemporary’s art fair participation and successes, including at Untitled Art Fair 2023 where the gallery was awarded the 21c Museum Hotels Acquisition Prize. The gallery has become widely recognized not only for its dynamic exhibition program, but its facilitation of exhibitions at important institutions—such as Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, and the Denver Art Museum—as well. Together, K Contemporary has brought wider attention not only to its own artists and events, but to the Denver art community at large. “I want to change the context in which people view contemporary art,” said Kacena, “and change the context in which they relate to contemporary art.”

What You Need to Know: K Contemporary is currently presenting the solo show “Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos: Frutas de la Pasion,” featuring a new and recent body of work by the Cuban-born artist. In developing the exhibition, the artist and K Contemporary simultaneously collaborated with Emmanuel Gallery, University of Colorado Denver, to expand the exhibition into a second venue. A short distance from K Contemporary, Ríos’s Ikebana (2019), alongside several smaller paintings are on view through February 24, 2024. The Ikebana is an installation-size inflatable sculpture visitors can explore and navigate. Emphasizing the culture value of the endeavor, the artist will be present in Denver at both locations the week of January 22, during which time there will be public programs, student critiques, as well as a reception.

Why We Like It: Ríos’s work is recognized for its ability to blur—or even eliminate—the boundary between figuration and abstraction, instead using a visual lexicon that draws from the traditions of both. Painterly yet refined, Ríos conveys levity and emotion as well as a deep understanding of the formal elements of his work; compositions, for example, draw attention to the boarders of the canvas, giving the impression that the paint could jump out of the frame at any moment. For the present show, the artist encapsulated the liveliness of his work in the title, saying, “‘Fruits of Passion’ is ethereal—a series of images that can’t be pinned down. It’s an aroma. It’s a fruit—a passion fruit. Art is an image, but it’s also a perfume that is intangible. It is a still life, it distills life, it is a passion fruit—my own one.” For followers of K Contemporary’s exhibition program and pop-ups as well as those just discovering it, the show highlights the gallery’s innovative and collaborative approach to its artists, community, and the contemporary art world at large.

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Te gusta el azul cielo, a mi no. / Do you like sky blue, I don’t. (2023)

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios, Te gusta el azul cielo, a mí no. / Do you like sky blue, I don’t. (2023). Courtesy of K Contemporary, Denver.

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Zanahorias con cabeza / Carrots with head (2023)

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Zanahorias con cabeza / Carrots with head (2023). Courtesy of K Contemporary, Denver.

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Sweet potato or yam, no better yet dead nature V (2023)

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Sweet potato or yam, no better yet dead nature V (2023). Courtesy of K Contemporary, Denver.

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, El blanco es la parte que no coge el sol / The white is the part that doesn’t get sun (2023)

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, El blanco es la parte que no coge el sol / The white is the part that doesn’t get sun (2023). Courtesy of K Contemporary, Denver.

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Me resisto a terminar esta obra / I resist from finishing this piece (2023)

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Me resisto a terminar esta obra / I resist from finishing this piece (2023). Courtesy of K Contemporary, Denver.

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Para ver esta obra debes taparte el ojo izquierdo / To see this piece you have to cover your left eye (2023)

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Ríos, Para ver esta obra debes taparte el ojo izquierdo / To see this piece you have to cover your left eye (2023). Courtesy of K Contemporary, Denver.

Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios: Fruta de la Pasion” is on view at K Contemporary, Denver.


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