As artists, Matt Barton and Corey Drieth aren't exactly peas in a pod.
Barton creates large and spectacular work, collections of random, wild installations, peppered with interactive light and sound. Drieth's paintings are small and understated, threaded together by subject matter and themes in the materials used. The contrast between the artists inspires the new show at the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Barton and Drieth were hired last August as faculty members for the art program at UCCS, and the show (aptly named New Faculty) is meant to introduce them as both teachers and artists. And while Barton has had several shows since last fall, including ones at the FAC Modern and Manitou's Business of Art Center, this will be Drieth's first gallery appearance since joining the college. His focus is narrow Drieth has spent the last four years working with small panels of poplar wood and gouache paint, media he says creates textural characteristics like soft, glowing surfaces that produce minimal abstractions.
"I make quiet work," Drieth says. "When I say 'quiet,' I mean the delicacy of the materials, the delicacy of the design language that's being used ... there are certain qualities that are subtle and take time to experience and to appreciate because the visual language is so sparse most of the time."
Drieth's drawn to the histories and traditions of introspective religious practices, like Buddhism and Zen, and his paintings explore the surface-object relationship specifically how one changes the other and how familiar objects can take on new meanings.
"My hope is that people slow down and take their time with them, that it has a contemplative, meditative effect on them," Drieth says. "It's about intimacy, delicacy and beauty."
In contrast, Barton's past shows have featured interactive hiking installations, colorful videos and technology. For New Faculty, Barton is focusing on a return to childhood and the transcendence that comes from make-believe.
"You can time-travel pretty easily when you're a kid, pretending," Barton says. "I'm interested in the crossing points between dream, memory, fantasy and the everyday. I want to celebrate nonsense, the irrational and the absurd as a means to free the mind."
Barton's using toys and objects from his childhood and a few installation elements such as a teeter-totter and a tower/clubhouse. But for the most part, he says, he's aiming for a more refined approach. His pieces will have an installation feel because he's still responding to the gallery space, but he prefers to call these works "site-specific sculptures."
"I'm thinking of the word 'elegant,'" he says. "'Elegant' doesn't mean clean or polished or minimal but it won't be sensory overload, either."
As much as Barton and Drieth's material and approach differ, their work in this show does hit one common theme.
"Meditative can mean so many different things," Barton says. "There's all kinds of activities that are meditative. It's something that takes you out of the everyday into some other mental space."