Every transformation requires a catalyst. In a place like Denver, Colorado with it’s big sky and ever growing population, transforming an already blossoming arts scene requires a catalyst that is larger than life. Enter Kurt Redeker and his Knew Conscious Gallery, located in the heart of Denver’s RiNo district. The gallery/event space has hosted an all star roster of modern visual artists on its walls and has brought new taste to after-hours entertainment in Denver with a vibe that’s part underground warehouse art-space and part high end gallery, infused with a whole lot of hype. Quite a bit of that hype is directly related to the dynamic founder, an artist in his own right, whose creative vision has grown beyond his own individual work to include experiential design and multidisciplinary artistic presentation. Redeker’s own artwork, one of the few permanent exhibitions at Knew Conscious, is enigmatic and vivid, with a strong focus on color, contrast, depth, and symmetry. Described as “alien” by its creator, Redeker’s artwork gives you the impression that you’re looking through a window into the matrix, and could possibly fall in if you lean too close.
Lost In Sound with Kurt Redeker:
Lost in Sound had the opportunity to chat with Kurt Redeker about his recent foray into other artistic disciplines like fashion, his own personal vision, and what Denver has to look forward to from the Knew Conscious Collective and Gallery.
[LIS] You’ve described your personal style as “alien.” Can you elaborate on that a little bit more?
[Kurt Redeker] I mean when I say alien, you know, it’s just something that we don’t say. What you can’t understand, is what I consider to be “alien.” My whole existence basically, my whole culture movement and myself has been based around music. When you listen to music, you know, music is based in a pattern, like a time; four count, seven count, whatever it may be. And so that time, they create the frequencies, right? And you feel that as a human; you feel vibration hitting you, you have no choice. Well, you can’t see it, and to really believe something you have to see it; so I started creating these vibrational movements based on patterns.
This almost synesthesia aspect that music and the art that you’re creating have – Were the patterns inspired by any specific experience that led to this visual manifestation of the music? Any certain rhythm or tonal quality, etc.?
Yeah, psychedelics. Obviously psychedelics. You know what they say – you close your eyes at night and you lay in bed; what happens is that you become vulnerable, and when you’re vulnerable, you dream. You know, you open yourself up to it and psychedelics are the same thing when you’re awake. Taking psychedelics I was able to kind of tap into what I believe are the vibrations. You see the vibrations, and DMT in particular really led me to see the movement of the vibrations.
As a fine artist who is working within a realm inspired by psychedelics, do you feel like this current revolution inspired by Silicon Valley and the microdosing trend that’s been so prominently featured in the news has helped bring psychedelic art more to the fore front in the fine arts community?
Well, you know, most of the so-called ‘visionary art’ has been going on for many years. There’s artists way out in front of us who most people haven’t even heard of. Maybe the two that, I think, were on the forefront – Salvador Dali and Robert Venosa – you know, Martina Hoffmann has a lot to do with it, as well. It’s all based on that psychedelic ayahuasca-like trip. I think that what’s happening now is that, the visionary world is… People want to see it. People want to tap into that. They’ve been inviting the visual artists to the festivals and to other things but there are not many galleries. There’s been a couple galleries that have tried to showcase psychedelic art but they really haven’t worked out. I think after seeing some of those galleries kind of rise and fall, you know, I’ve learned from that. That’s why I think Knew Conscious is sort of unfolding right now. I think that’s why we are becoming something “known” in this world – and this artwork, this style of art, is actually starting to transcend to other people now. It’s becoming part of that fine art community.
Yeah, we are a speck of dust in the art world compared to contemporary and everything like that, but we are being recognized now into a mainstream world that would be considered to be part of that fine art world. I mean, it is fine art. Visionary art, or psychedelic art or whatever you want to call it. I like to call it transcendental work – you know, “art of one’s mind,” and that’s that fearless way of projecting your mind and your visions onto a canvas. It’s pure emotion, it’s fearless, and that’s the true inspiration. People are starting to fuckin gravitate towards that a lot more now. But you know, in our culture… Drugs, or drug reference is considered sort of taboo. It’s just like sex, it’s a taboo. You know, it’s hard to see boobies in a movie… Well it’s also hard to see a piece of art that has been created by psychedelics. So people kind of still fucking question it just because of the fact that they don’t understand it. But it’s not really based on the drug use, it’s based upon trying to open your mind up in this world of fear we live in right now.
To touch on one of the things you’re speaking of – interacting with the psychedelic community – Knew Conscious has quite a few things going on within the space here: membership tiers, live music events, as well as incredible artwork on display. I’m wondering how difficult it is to reconcile the psychedelic community with the sort of hidden rules of being in a gallery? Things like proper decorum around artwork and the way that you behave around pieces of fine art… How has that been for you?
Well, you gotta give people the opportunity to stand tall. I mean if you’re going to shun them because they spilled their milk at the dinner table and they’re not allowed to come back well guess what? People are going to spill their milk every single time. So, I think it’s important to let people come into and be in a gallery space. Let’s be honest – most galleries, at least the galleries that I went to when I was a young kid, you feel out of place. People think that looking at art is something you have to know how to do. That’s not true. You should be able to look at anything you want and hear anything you want and interpret it any way you want, and we’re not allowed to do that. I think that the gallery space that I’ve created here by bringing in the music, I’m just trying to encompass all of the arts so people feel the inspiration that’s happening. I believe that everyone has the same. Nobody is bigger than anybody; we can all create our own art from our heart, you know?
Why did Denver appeal to you as a place to establish this sort of base for visionary and transcendent artwork?
You know, it’s just big. Big sky, I don’t know how to explain it to you. I remember driving across the country back in ‘91 and my first time coming through Colorado and just seeing the mountains. Everything is just so intense and so intimidating. It was extreme, and it’s exciting. I didn’t stay here, I ended up going to California, but I just had a feeling that I was going to end up back here. As far as coming back here to be an artist, well fuck. I had no clue I was even going to be an artist at the point when I came back here. I mean, I did study graphic design and photography. When I first moved to Colorado I was just doing straight up photography and was working with Madison House photographing String Cheese (Incident), working at a photo lab, and then I started working for Ski Magazine. I started teaching myself the computer because I didn’t go to college with a computer. Once I started teaching myself page layout and all those things, I think that I kind of just willed myself into learning the technology of the computer. Over time, being a designer – learning the different tricks, learning about color, learning about printing processes and different mediums – that helped me get to where I am right now.
You mentioned in a previous interview that the computer is your favorite medium to create with. You work a lot with depth and symmetry in your artwork. How does working with the computer help you get to such a detailed level of perspective? You have such a high level of detail, you can stand in front of a piece and almost dive right into it…
When I moved on to the computer… I mean there’s no possible way that I could create a perfect equation myself but the computer allows me to create a perfect equation. I could build a grid with pencils and compasses and make it the best I can but it still would be organic. Using the computer allows me to use those grids to create my patterns, the piece of architecture I’m creating, to make it perfect because I think that’s what we need to feel. It’s just like listening to music – you know, if somebody falls out of time, every single person is like “oh, they fucked up,” and it’s the same kind of thing looking at a piece of art that’s based on mathematics. Well, if you’re looking at a piece of mathematics that is crooked, guess what? It throws you off a little bit. So that’s why I use the computer, to make sure that it’s perfect.
That makes sense, that you’re able to check your work in that regard.
Well technology itself… You know, like tradition is rad. Tradition is how we got to where we’re at. But holding on to what we know is something that as humans we’ve been accustomed to just because we’re scared. I mean, we’re living in a world of fear. We should actually use the technology that we are creating, that humanity is creating, to enhance the way that we see things, hear things, that sort of thing. So that’s why I’m all about being “future” and want to try to do things traditionally in a sense, with color, but as far as my process that has to be technology-based, future-based.
Yeah, for sure. I can really appreciate the amount of detail that you can put into that work because of that. So, tell me about some of your favorite exhibitions that have come through the gallery so far.
Probably my third show ever with Chris Davidson and David Hale was monumental for Knew Conscious just because,you know… bringing Chris Davidson and the name that he had over the years painting live with (Sound Tribe) Sector 9; and David Hale and what he’s done with the tattoo world… bringing them here to do that show was really monumental for this place. It kind of gave Knew Conscious a momentum. There’s been some great shows, from Android Jones to Amanda Sage and Martina Hoffmann, and then some of the new stuff with Adam Psybe, Omar Chow, and Zach Jackson. Now we’re even getting ready to bring in some new names that I would love to share but this year we’re trying to be a little bit more secretive on how we do that. I have a new director that runs my gallery now, his name is Ryan Connell, so I have to honor that. You know I believe that we all have roles; and I did it for so many years and I think that my focus should be more on the art that I can create as well as the curation that I do with the space. Bringing in Ryan to set up the art shows and bring the artists that fit in with Knew Conscious and having other people that are helping me run the space. We have some really big name artists that are going to be coming through this year. I’ll tell you one show that really sticks out that was probably passing the torch to Ryan, was the Red Rocks (Amphitheater) show leading into our, essentially “group” show this year. That was pretty much the… you could just tell that there was a shift happening with the art that was coming and I’m super proud and I’m super blessed.
You’ve made some moves in the arts world that go beyond standard visual. You just hosted your “alien-life” fashion show at the Fillmore (Auditorium in Denver) and it was a huge hit. Why do you feel it’s important to showcase collaboration between mediums like visual arts and runway fashion?
I want to try and collaborate with as many people as possible. It’s like having a giant canvas and everyone having a paintbrush on it. I truly believe that we’re one, and by giving people the opportunity to create for the same vision, man that is as inspiring as all inspiring can be. The fashion show, you know, it’s exciting. I’m taking my art and giving my art out to these designers, who then use that art to inspire them to create these looks, and to bring in models to create those looks, and hairdressers and makeup artists. It’s this all encompassing project that is actually leading towards one vision. So it is like a canvas with everyone that has a paintbrush. Empowering people is the key to this world that we’re trying to do rather than judging or dismissing people for what they do or for what they don’t have.
Do you have any other disciplines that you could see being inspired by your work directly – say, dance or something of that nature?
We’ve had some dancers here at Knew Conscious. Expression, cooking… I think food is probably going to be one of the next things that is coming here to Knew Conscious. It’s something that I believe is a craft. It’s all art as long as you’re doing it with with fuckin’ heart, no matter what it is; it doesn’t matter. I just like pushing myself, you know? I want to be fearless, I think we all should be fearless; so by pushing yourself to the unknown and seeing what you can do with it is really exciting to me. You think about this world, this world is so caught up in being told what to do. Whether you’re working a corporate job, in a cube (which I’ve done so don’t take this the wrong way, this is no disrespect to the people that do this) because you/we have to based on fear. We do these things based on fear because we have to pay our rent and we have to wear the clothes that people like and we have to drive the car so we do these things for other people, and all day long we do them. We’re not necessarily doing it because we love it, but we do it because we need to fuckin’ live. We get home at night and what do we do? We shut down, we turn the TV on, and we let something else create imagination in our mind. So what happens is you get frustrated as a human. I think that it’s important to know that each one of us has the power to love and to create. We’re all a bunch of creators here, you know? So you know, when we think about the people that work here with me too, they’re all creators, they’re all part of this, whether it’s my bartender, my door person or my sound engineer. Whoever it is, we look at each other as the same, and when you do that you get respect for yourself. It doesn’t matter, not necessarily that’s what you want to do, but at least you’re acknowledged for your effort and that is what we should be doing in life, period. Because we are all creators, every single one of us.
In what ways are you hoping that this space helps the arts community in Denver and also helps the art community overall?
Well, like I said, I just want to inspire others. It’s not even about just what I can do, it’s more about what we can do. I want a spot that people can come to and be wowed and take that wow to their own heart to create something from. That’s all I’m trying to do, to be honest with you.
One of the biggest obstacles right now in the visual arts world is creating content that’s marketable versus creating content that is original and, like you said, breaks the rules. Some of the best artwork in the history of humanity has been art that breaks the rules, but nowadays there’s such a drive towards being marketable and being sell-able. How do you feel like this space can bridge that gap?
I don’t know if it’s this space in particular that’s going to bridge the gap. I think that what’s happening is that… I understand about making money, and so being an artist you have to be able to market. That’s what I used to do. I used to sign my art. I don’t anymore. I used to do prints, used to do the hats. I think people need to create purely based on letting an expression out of their heart, and by doing that it’s going to transcend even more. I know it’s hard to believe that just because of the world that we live in, we have to have to have monetary value to stay here. I mean I completely understand that but I really hope that people can see that I am doing everything I possibly can to just be pure to my vision and my art. I used to do the t-shirts, I used to do the hats, I used to do the prints, and I did it because I needed to live. When I opened up the venue, I basically was able to let that go, because I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to dismiss or demean my art. Not saying that artists are doing that because they’re not. I understand what it takes to just be an artist. But I’d rather… You know, it would be nice if they didn’t have to market it, if it wasn’t based on value, because once you place a value on any art it’s not art anymore. It becomes a commodity.
The community aspect is definitely really important and one of the things I’m noticing about Knew Conscious is that you guys are actually succeeding in doing what a lot of these underground art spaces kind of wish they could do – establishing a legal location for creative expression, and free-form creative expression at that, without any of the red tape that a lot of the fine arts galleries tend to throw up. What were the biggest hurdles in establishing this place in Denver, given that “middle of the road” multi-purpose thing that you’re trying to do here?
The main thing has been a lot of luck. I mean, I don’t really believe in luck but I will say that sometimes something falls in your lap that wasn’t supposed to. I believe in it so much that I think things are kind of falling into place. To create art in a space that you want to consider social, you have to make that the essence of your spot to be able to do the things that you want to do to get away from that red tape.
I read a lot of law. I find law very interesting, just because there are many messages in just one sentence. I think it’s really cool, and so I’ve been studying it just like I study mathematics. I’m not really sure why we’re here. We did get shut down, on December 10th, and we hurdled that. We’re continuing to do exactly what we have been doing from the get go. When I look back on the years at Knew Conscious, I’ve been putting bands on top of my roof without permits, shutting the street down without having permits saying it was a video shoot… I just pushed the gamut, you know? And I think that when you believe, and you’re pure, nothing gets in the way of your heart. If you’re doing it to try to have a spot to commune, to be sideways, or you know those intentions are really fucking poor and whether you think they’re pure or not, you gotta be pure. They have to be real, and they can’t be false hope. Once you put that false hope in there, it’s going to get squashed.
Knew Conscious has been here for 7 years, and we have not had one altercation physically ever here. The cops have never walked into this place because of a call. The only time they walked into this place is because of the Oakland fire (at the Ghost Ship warehouse), and the reason why they did that is because it was a sweep across the whole country. They came in here, they shut us down, and we opened back up and we’re back doing what we do best. You know, inspiring.
Well congratulations on making those codes so you can actually stay open because nowadays…
I can tell you exactly what we’ve done. I’m not afraid to share knowledge. I would, you know… I want people to be able to do this. I really believe that this is the forefront, that we are creating a place that is not based on alcohol sales. All venues, everything under entertainment that we know to this day, period – all profit margins are based upon alcohol sales. Destruction of others. It doesn’t matter if you’re an art gallery, if you’re a fuckin’ venue, or a fuckin’ festival. It’s all based on that. Knew Conscious, we want it to be based on people wanting to be here.
That’s a great mission statement. I feel like it actually brings the visual arts back to where it should be, in the sense that there was the culture of “cool” that existed after the 70’s and the 60’s, and around the fine arts world and the pop art world…
Totally… Andy Warhol…
…and it got really convoluted to the point where the culture of cool overtook the nature of just appreciating the art.
Well, actually, the greed came in, the money came in. That’s why it was called pop art, right? Because it became popular, and once it became popular the money came in and then it didn’t have any message.
That sort of leads me to my next question. What do you think is the purpose of visual art in today’s society?
You have to see it to believe it. I think it’s showing one’s mind. You know, a lot of artwork, especially visual art, is very subjective. Whether it’s a human face, or a tree, or a rock, or a bird… Those are things that you know. People need to let go of that and start fuckin’ showing what they feel and see in their mind. That’s the transcendental movement – you need to see it to believe it.
Speaking of seeing… Whose work or collection or what in particular would you love to see on display here at Knew Conscious?
Man, I mean… I can’t give you an answer really… You know because everybody that comes here… Everybody that I want is here or coming here soon. I mean, if I gave you my wish list then you’re gonna fuckin know who’s coming this year (laughs). There are some artists though that I definitely admire a real lot… Peeta being one of them, Demsky being another… hint, hint (winks). I think those two are on the forefront. Mr. Basic’s another one I feel is a true fuckin’ artist, a very fearless individual. But as far as who I really want to see here, I think that… They’re all coming.
Just wait and see?
Well, actually I can tell you something. I mean we are going to do the big fashion show this year. We are going to be doing our block party, Ascension, and our group show, those things are going to coincide together. We are looking at dates right now for a big headline act. So that is something… And the fashion show will coexist with it. In the past, I’ve done the block party and the next year I did the fashion show, so the last 6 years, every other year we’ve done one or the other. This year I’m actually putting it all together as one. Plus, I’m doing my own art show in November. I’m doing all 3 that I’ve been working on for for the last 7 years. You know, the celebration of the artists that come to Knew Conscious, which is called Ascension, the fashion show, and my art show. They’re all going to be this fall.
We are really excited to see your work in particular now that you’re going to have a bit more time to get back into the studio and do all the stuff that’s been itching at the back of your cranium to get out.
Definitely, I’m excited too.
So do you have any buzzwords about the direction that the stuff that you’re working on now is going to go?
Yeah. I mean, it’s going to be multi-dimensional. My work in the past has been very flat, like Lightbox. Now, it’s going to be multi-dimensional. It’s going to be four dimensional pieces of work, patterns that you know…
Very nice. We’ll definitely keep an eye out for it. Thanks for talking with us about all of this!
Check out the Knew Conscious Gallery in Denver, Colorado to see the artwork of Kurt Redeker and a rotating exhibit of artists. Membership to the Knew Conscious Collective includes invitations to exclusive events like this Friday’s (March 31st) show with DJ Logic and the upcoming 4/20 event featuring Chris Karns w/Borham Lee.