Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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Q: What language does a billboard speak in?
A: Sign language

Advertising has a funny way of pushing and prodding us into the most inane situations. For several years now one Denver artist has been poking and prodding back.

Colin Livingston’s tongue-in-cheek mockuments to the advertising industry and popular culture in-general have been gaining strong praise. In his most recent exhibition at Plus Gallery in December of 2009, “The Big Idea” was just that: a great, big idea.

Instead of using gallery space in a traditional manner, Livingston set-up his initial concept as a store. Complete with a cash register, cabinets and standing displays, Livingston carefully orchestrated the entire store, from concept to build-out. Springboarding from his 2006 body of work, this newfound medium of interaction transcended his messages, both ironic and sincere.

In color and in texture, a lot of Livingston’s work is playful. His colors are bold. His design concepts are strong. And while he’s certainly not a comedian, his messages can be funny. A kind of comic relief for the everyday man. However, Colin Livingston is not a stranger to trauma. He understands the sincerity and vulnerability of life. Several years ago profundity struck he and his family: his mother passed away. In that space where one is pushed to create meaning out of their life, Livingston drew that breath into who he is, fundamentally, as a human being.

“I am an artist,” Livingston unflinchingly said, “Art is my voice.”

Implicit in the care of his work – his flawless use of resin and careful, nearly tedious construction of everything – is the idea that, as Livingston even readily admits, “This really means a lot to me.”

It was through his mother’s death that Livingston learned how to see the world in a strong light. He learned which situations to take seriously, and that most of what we toil over, is small. And these seemingly simple notions have transferred themselves over into his work: Livingston is not aiming for the ground, but rather, he is aiming for that space above the billboards – the space above us all.

Colin Livingston wants to speak to the broader aquarium of life. To this end, his color schemes and use of letters and words and phrases has opened-up conversation with his audiences. And while his perspective certainly has enabled him to speak loudly to many people – it is his willingness to use all faculties around him like implements that has pushed his work into an original and refreshing light. “The Big Idea” served as just that kind of vehicle for Livingston to employ everything he could: painting, sculpture, drawing (his sketchbook), photography, design and packaging.

Just before “The Big Idea” exhibition, Livingston’s wife gave birth to twins. Where once Livingston was speaking to humanity as a whole, I have a feeling that now his voice will be aimed at those closest to him. If not that then, in the same way that he has utilized the world around him to create conversation, the newest rays of light in his life will serve as yet another source of divine inspiration.

Keep abreast of Livingston’s new exhibitions: http://www.plusgallery.com/artists/livingston/