Currently on display at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (FAC) is local artist Floyd Tunson’s retrospective titled “Son of Pop.”
The show exhibits works spanning Tunson’s 40-year career and consumes the second floor of the FAC in its entirety with bold color, text and image, executed in a variety of media.
“Right away, you can see this is an artist with a high degree of craftsmanship,” said Blake Milteer, museum director and curator of American art.
The sheer scale of Tunson’s work creates an intense, interactive experience, incorporating the viewer into the depicted scene. An early painting, titled “Errands,” is a life size illustration of three women walking down a street.
Because the viewer is only able to see the backs of the women, Tunson creates the sense of the viewer as a follower, adding a voyeuristic feel to an everyday scene.
Tunson’s proficiency in both abstraction and representation, and two-dimensional and three-dimensional creations immediately overwhelms a visitor to the exhibition. He blurs the distinction between painting and sculpture through pieces that resemble Robert Rauschenberg’s collage-like style. In his “Synchro-Mesh” series Tunson utilizes paint as well as found objects to create work that protrude into the viewer’s surroundings.
Additionally the exhibit includes works of Tunson’s, such as “Hearts and Minds” and “Delta Queen”, which are similar to theatrical sets, creating a physical scene with the viewer as a participant or intruder.
Much of Tunson’s work is a direct response to his upbringing as an African-American male in the ‘60s. Social and political commentary underlies many of his visual compositions.
Tunson describes his art as a way of “confronting the monsters within myself, my culture, my country and the world.” He added that “however intense the social commentary, I hold myself accountable for an aesthetic execution of the concept.”
To explain the reason for choosing a retrospective rather than a group show with multiple artists, Milteer said that in his experience, “the shows most successful have been those in which you can be surrounded by and immersed by a single artist’s works.”
“It is really different to wrap your head around the dynamic intensity, the cycles that can happen, and the way an artist is immersed and responsive to their culture and how that can change through one piece of work,” Milteer said.
Born in Denver, Colo., Tunson is a product of this region. Initially a self-taught artist, he expanded his skills in college, receiving both a Bachelors of Arts and a Masters of Arts in studio art from Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo.
Tunson taught art in the Colorado Springs community for decades and currently resides and works from his studio in Manitou Springs.
In an interview with KRCC, Tunson attributed the lack of artistic inspiration in the area as a positive component to his work.
“Here I always feel like what is going on is in my space and not necessarily out there. I don’t rely on this region or this area because if I did, I would be in bad shape because this is not the artistic mecca… We are in the hot bed of nothingness.”
On display until January 20, Milteer hopes that “Son of Pop” will expose both Tunson and the Pikes Peak region’s artistic community on a national level.
“I believe that this is work that holds up on a national, if not international scale,” Milteer said.
As far as local response, the “Son of Pop” exhibition hosted the largest members’ opening in years for the FAC and offers components of Tunson’s work that have never been seen before by to the Colorado Springs community.
“His pieces are very inviting the way they are oriented,” said Zuri Randell, senior studio art major. “Even though the museum is quiet, his composition really gets you caught up in the circus of it all. He allows us to enter a community that we normally wouldn’t be placed it.”
The Fine Arts Center is located at the corner of Cache la Poudre and Dale Street, bordering Colorado College’s Packard building. Admission is free for all Colorado College students.
“Tunson works in a quiet way, pushing on himself as an artist that pushes on us as a society,” Milteer said. “Art has a capacity to do that in a way that not much else does.”