Prominent Denver artist Gamma Acosta appears to have tagged a sculpture by longtime Colorado artist Clark Richert that was recently installed at 127 East 20th Avenue
Both the sculpture, “Quadrivium,” and its base are now emblazoned with Acosta’s signature bright red heart with a heartline graph running across it. Beneath the sculpture, it reads #Gamma Gallery, Acosta’s Instagram handle.
The goal of Richert’s installation was to bring hope to Denver, to inspire conversation. The goal of the tag is not as clear: Acosta did not respond to our queries regarding whether the tag was actually his, much less explain why it was there.
When one artist tags another’s work, it is often an expression of territoriality, a way of saying, “Get out of here.” Murals have been used as a graffiti deterrent for years in gentrifying neighborhoods; there’s an unspoken rule that one artist should not vandalize another artist’s work…unless it’s offensive.
Acosta grew up in Longmont. He started out as a graffiti artist and made his way into the art world doing large-scale photorealist murals on walls inside and outside of businesses in Denver and beyond. With work now displayed internationally, he’s hardly the most likely suspect to be running around the streets tagging other artists’ works…much less one by Richert.
Born in Kansas, Richert started making waves in the ’60s, at the artist commune Drop City, near Trinidad, where he built living and studio spaces out of complicated geometric forms. His interest in geometry is intrinsic to his painting, too, and spans five decades of his work. As an instructor at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Richert has mentored generations of artists.
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Amy Harmon, the real estate broker who owns the plot of land at the edge of Five Points where “Quadrivium” is installed, found out that the artwork she’d commissioned as a piece that might bring the community together had been tagged earlier this week. The name on the tag is particularly irksome, because Harmon says she’s protected Acosta’s work on a nearby building she owns.
When she broke the news to Richert, “He was like, ‘Well, perhaps I should talk to Gamma.’ I thought that was sort of beautiful that was his first reaction.”
Unfortunately, Richert hasn’t had a chance to get past that. “I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to talk to Gamma via phone/email/text message,” Richert wrote Westword, when we asked about the tag. “Still hoping to make peace with him.”
And that’s all Harmon wants, too. “This piece is about bringing conversations to light,” Harmon says. “I want to understand what it means before I make a formal response. It’s all about an education for all of us. That’s what I’m trying to create some space for. I’m not interested in ratcheting up conflict in our community.”