Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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Here’s two things that I enjoy:

a.) The idea that Bill Amundson is an artist’s artist.

b.) The use of fuck and shit in as much visual art as possible.

Bill Amundson is loquacious, witty, jovial and unpretentious. And maybe a bit eccentric. With or without a proper inquiry, he is apt to excuse his actions by explaining that he is in advanced middle age. If you ask him if he enjoys working as a living artist, more possible than answering the question is the fact that he may grimace and tell you that he’s not really comfortable being called an artist and more than that – all this is, is probably just a good attempt at staving-off a myriad of possible mental illnesses.

To talk with Amundson is to spend time with somebody who is clearly charged. A conversation with him is likely to feel like a blitzkrieg of syllables and ideas and histories. Fortunately, his assault benevolent. Amundson is charged and animated by life. Without pretense, Bill Amundson is somebody who is obsessed with life. Maybe even possessed. Really: absolutely everything around Amundson is a springboard. A memory. An insight. A folly.

He has long been a highly visible character up and down the Front Range: he has worked as a radio deejay for the old KTCL. He was the zany host on Denver’s long running local television “Music Link” and, since he moved to Colorado in 1975, has been a visible part of Denver’s art community, working with some of the city’s first art collectives and galleries. For a Denver history buff, Amundson is a goldmine of information and perspective: i.e., he was actually there at Malfunction Junction (the city’s first punk rock venue); he hung-out at Wax Trax when it first opened. The local celebrities, names and bands and artists that occupy his head is quite astounding. Name nearly anything and Amundson has a story that he can tell – with his words or with his pencil.

Yet, ask him what he would say to younger artists. He may shrug and tell you how he used to teach at CU Boulder and that it wasn’t really his thing. Then when he winds around, off his interstate of story, this seasoned everyman is likely to say things like: making things is what is interesting. Make your thing. Get people behind you. Just produce. There is no right way to approach art.

Bill Amundson is loquacious, witty, jovial, unpretentious and his art mirrors this, nearly perfectly. Amundson was anti-suburbia before it was cool. He was anti-celebrity before most people had realized they we had been conned into integrating our lives into this spectacle of society. He has shown in the Denver Art Museum and simultaneously sold his work for $75 a piece. He has a billboard on the Denver Center for Performing Arts, but only within the last couple of years was picked-up by a big gallery in Denver.

Most of his work is done with pencil on paper: drawings. For Amundson drawing is a medium that is highly relatable to all. It’s something we all either do, or have done. It’s an easy relation. To that end, his work is a touchstone for most any of us that remember the child in us.

Like his work, the messages that Amundson has to impart with his tongue or his pencil are cultivated and resultantly, shrewd. Often there is a throw of humility in what he imparts. I suppose he pulls this from that same place where one would if they were, like Amundson, a confessed man of the world. Yet, unlike most – you wouldn’t hear such a thing said out of Amundson’s mouth in completely sincerity. No, the stint as a deejay cleaned his ego out, he says.

“The examined life is probably not the best life,” he quips.

From miles away I can still see him smiling as he says this. But the thing is, Amundson has examined his life to such a degree that he is able to communicate the profundities, the little histories, the inconsistencies, the truisms, in an unparalleled manner. Frankly, few in life, let alone at his age have the energy to speak like he does through his pencil, or with his sharp tongue.

His content, in some regard, is obvious: he is examining the American life – the logos, the corporations, the quality of life. Recently, it dawned on Amundson, how many remote controls he has and how much they dominate his life. Resultantly, he has become obsessed with these items. You can find them in pieces like his “Amundson’s New Babel”.

And so, where Bill Amundson believes that the examined life may not be the best life – it is his life. When drawing a correlation between this notion and his work – Amundson, loaded with myriads of linguistic and ideological weapons, is likely to point back to the idea that his art is both simply parading as, and covering-up, his mental illnesses.

As Amundson admits, absurdity is his friend. If this is true and if he really believes this, then I want to believe the same thing too. If, that is, I can communicate with you like Bill Amundson does.