DENVER — One of Colorado’s most important artists, Clark Richert, died last week at 80 years old. Richert was known as a painter, but his artwork included sculpture, video, and installation that shared his concerns and curiosities of both perceptible dimensions and beyond. What his work found and his artistic legacy will remember is the connections he forged as an educator, mentor, and community builder. He is survived by his partner Barb and his three children Hannah, Luther and Brandon.
Richert was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. After he earned his BFA from the University of Kansas in 1963, he entered the MFA program at the University of Colorado, but left his studies in 1965 to establish the artist community Drop City in Trinidad, Colorado with Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky and Richard Kallweit. The intention was to create live-in work and impromptu performances that Richert called Droppings or Drop Art. Richert and other Droppers constructed triacontahedron domes for their housing and studios, a unique hallmark to the commune and a geometric image identifiable in his art. In 1969, Richert left Drop City and returned to Boulder finish his MFA by 1972.
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Many of the Drop City artists regrouped in 1974 to establish the Boulder-based cooperative Criss-Cross. Richert credits the experimental and innovative participation in Criss-Cross with developing his ideas on structure, space, and pattern.
Artist Joseph Coniff was a student when Richert taught at Rocky Mountain College of Design between 1998 and 2018 and worked as his studio assistant for several years. “Clark was extremely kind and goodhearted. He treated all of his students with respect and encouraged them in all their creative pursuits, not just painting,” Coniff told Hyperallergic by email. “He asked a lot of questions and cared about what younger generations thought and were experiencing. We could relate to him and wanted to hear his perspective.”
This observation was apparent in 2019 when the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and University of Colorado (Colorado Springs) Gallery of Contemporary Art all hosted retrospectives exhibiting the full breadth of Richert’s work. Galleries were packed with both young artists and colleagues of 50 years. “He really saw art as about relationships,” says Cortney Stell, curator of the retrospective in Boulder. “The best art really shows us how we all relate to each other.”
His work is currently on display until January 8 at Rule Gallery in Marfa, Texas, which has represented the artist since 1989.