Check Out the Latest Summer Exhibitions from Denver MCA

Anna Tsouhlarakis wrapped in twine in black t-shirt
Anna Tsouhlarakis, It Started Like This, 2020. Single channel projection, Digital Video

On June 14th, the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art celebrated the opening of two solo exhibitions showcasing the unique and moving work of Houston-native Tomashi Jackson and Boulder-based artist Anna Tsouhlarakis. The two new summer exhibitions from Denver MCA look into both artist’s brilliant use of color, humor and activism through the lens of various mediums.

Colorful painting of woman singing from MCA'S two new summer exhibitions
Tomashi Jackson, Here at the Western World (Professor Windham’s Early 1970’s Classroom and the 1972 Second Baptist Church Choir.

Tomashi Jackson: Across the Universe, curated by Miranda Lash, presents Jackson’s themes, research and artwork from the last nine years, including three commissioned pieces inspired by Colorado. “Much of Tomashi’s work deals with how we operate as a democratic state, and her work addresses different aspects of democracy. Themes include housing, transportation, education, police brutality and freedom from violence,” said Lash.

Person sitting, head wrapped in colorful knit in front of colorful background from MCA's two new summer exhibitions
Tomashi Jackson, Dajerria All Alone (Eric N. Mack)

Jackson expands the boundaries of how we see color through color theory and knitted color studies. “She had to wait outside on cold bus stops and needed a way to keep warm. And so she would knit these color studies. She found they provided a way of having her subjects, colleagues and artists embody painting,” recalled Lash. Jackson also explores “the concept of vibrating boundaries”—high contrasting colors reflect moments of high tension displayed in her pieces.

Another prevalent concept in Jackson’s work, shown through layers, is how past and present intertwine. “She uses materials and collages to bring these histories into conversation with each other so that what happened in 1955 is shown in relationship to what happened in 2015,” said Lash. Jackson utilizes found materials like Texas soil and brown paper bags to build onto her work — adding texture to the pieces.

4 people in front of lake dressed in white t-shirts from MCA's two new summer exhibitions
Tomashi Jackson, End of the Road Still

Across the Universe— aside from vivid and vibrant artwork— includes five videos featuring Jackson’s alter ego, Tommy Tonight, a 90s R&B artist accompanied by a boyband reminiscent of Boyz II Men. “For her, this piece represents joy and liberation,” said Lash. “Important messages are needed in the art space, but we also need spaces for pure release and freedom.”

Text on billboard says: "I really like the way you respect Native American rights" MCA's two new summer exhibitions
Photo Courtesy of Anna Tsouhlarakis

Anna Tsouhlarakis transforms how we view contemporary art and Native artmaking and creates a definition of her own. A theme throughout the new work seen in Tsouhlarakis’ work from the past 20 years and in Indigenous Absurdities— like the name implies— is humor and sarcasm and its discourse around Native American Identity. Through video, sculpture and photography, Tsouhlarakis demonstrates that jokes are rooted in truth.

Some of Tsouhlarakis includes meme-like text on top of a white background displaying “Indian humor” — a colloquial phrase for Native American jokes dealing with specific tribes and families. These jokes are deconstructed into symbols. Whether it’s through the words “It’s great how you acknowledge that Native Americans are still here,” “I really like the way you respect Native American rights,” or “Her beadwork isn’t vintage, it’s just old,” these pieces serve as sarcastic applauses.

Anna Tsouhlarakis wrapped by wooden pieces
Anna Tsouhlarakis, Make It Right, 2020, Single Channel Projection, Digital Video from MCA’s two new summer exhibitions

Indigenous Absurdities also includes various sculptures by the artist. Using pieces of IKEA furniture, porcupine quills, found wood and plaster, Tsouhlarakis creates bound structures layered on top of one another and addresses decolonization.

The two new summer exhibitions from Denver MCA will be here from June 14 until September 10. Ticket prices range from $9-$12 and can be purchased here.

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