Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

{enter gallery above}

Imagine that you were somebody else. Imagine if you had done things differently. Taken an alternate path.

Now, do it.

Because, if Rafa Jenn is any indicator Ė you can succeed. However, Rafa Jennís story is topically a bit different. Typically when people are thinking about having done things differently, they are pondering some upgrade their lives. But when youíre one of Denverís top painters, can you really improve upon the critically acclaimed, stellar body of work youíve spent years creating and exhibiting, hitherto?

Yes. And no.

Why, if you were standing near the top of the Denver art hierarchy, would you develop another project? To elevate your work even higher? And to be clear, I did say that Rafa Jenn, his pseudonym for this project, is, under a different name (a name that will not be revealed), one of Denverís absolute top fine art painters.

Rafa Jennís work is kitsch art. Itís lowbrow. It combines his background in illustration, graphic design and fine art. Rafa Jennís work doesnít go up its own ass. Itís not pretentious. Itís playful. And to borrow from the urban jargon from which this project works within: Rafa Jennís art is dope. Itís fresh.

To extend that further, this artistís new project is refreshing. Having been educated in fine art and after having worked within this industry for many years now, Rafa Jennís (a pseudonym) project has been a source of liberation. Because while working within the constraints of a formalized, serious and often pedantic world like the fine art world can be Ė rules and boundaries that begin in textbooks can grow to encompass the mind and then, before an artist may/may not realize: those ideas grew into walls and oceans.

Rafa Jennís current work has proven to be the Shiva of the fine art ideals that he cultivated over the last decade. For years and years, Rafa Jenn promised himself that he would never paint his friendsí animals. He said he would never paint pornography. With this new project he has done just that: He has painted his friendsí pets, in spades. And now, he has one whole collection of racy, erotic pin-up girls, with a second exhibition going on display at Space Gallery in June of 2008.

For this project Rafa Jenn wanted to only use one rule: there are no rules whatsoever. Inspiration changes. Style morphs. Now heíll paint endangered species. Kid art. Design-oriented faces. Urban scenes. His work can fluctuate in medium and style. It can be adolescent rebel art.

And, unlike his other halfís work, Rafa Jennís work is very affordable.

Unlike his more expensive, and complicated fine art paintings, Rafa Jennís work typically sells-out. If not at an exhibition, shortly thereafter. And heís having fun with it all: making posters, and having his work appear on tee shirts and sneakers. But itís not a coincidence that his work is selling the way that it is. No, Rafa Jenn has put thought into what will sell, and then with his extensive fine art background Ė he goes about creating that kind of work.

Here there is liberation, freedom. And while Rafa Jenn takes both of his names in earnest, somehow the Rafa Jenn side of this artist is more playful. The obvious difference being, apart from style, the amount of time that he spends on a single piece. With Rafa Jenn, itís quick, childlike. With his fine art, itís laborious. Time consuming. But in describing both of his styles, both of his projects and both of his names Rafa Jenn says, ďtheyíre like spring and autumn.Ē In this, he loves them both. And with his kind of talent and vision, I would if I were him too.

If you were standing at the top of the Denver art community with work that has been lauded by the critics and purchased by many, one has a built-in wonder and curiosity about their projects and future work. Because while it could create more interest if collectors found-out about this side project of Rafa Jenn Ė it also might not. In this, he is not employing some gimmick. Some trick to sell more work on either side of his spectrum. All this when Denverís art community continues to struggle.

Analogous to Denverís music scene, it seems that our art community is becoming burnt-out. For years now, the promise has been, wellÖ the promise. With the new wing of the Denver Art Museum, Clifford Still Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and all the great new and young artists over the last couple of years Ė there has been a buzz. There has been momentum. But now, it seems that there is only hard times for art, in general. The big names continue to sell and then on the other end of the continuum, the kitschy, lowbrow art sells. But in the middle, the art isnít moving as fluidly.

So, while Rafa Jenn and his peers collectively feel a disappointment in Denverís art world Ė they remain in the only place that you can: with your brush in your hand and your eyes on your canvas. Stay tuned for Rafa Jennís future exhibitions and developments, here: www.rafajenn.com.