Luis Varela-Rico threw himself into the Downtown arts scene a few years ago by hanging his steel origami cranes—guerrilla style—around the Arts District, catching the attention of two galleries that eventually exhibited his work. He soon became known as the steel origami guy—a typecast he wasn’t ready to be locked into.
And so in “Organic Study No. 1” at the Clark County Government Center we see Varela-Rico depart from the sharp geometric angles of the birds, swapping in a more robust and organic form. The 8-by-4-foot hanging sculpture of an outstretched hand, formed by rows of individually suspended and (irregularly shaped) metal sheets, appears and disappears depending on a viewer’s vantage point. Rusted areas of the segmented sculpture add texture and natural coloring, matching it to the desert-themed government center.
Though Varelo-Rico used the same materials and act of suspension, it’s a complete 180 for the artist (the suspended cranes were also made from steel sheets). At an artist talk last week, he announced that “Organic Study No. 1” doesn’t have much meaning symbolically, that he simply wanted to get away from his older work and kept thinking “organic.”
But an outstretched hand can be loaded with sentiment, serving almost as a universal symbol for love and friendship, representing strength, acceptance and comfort. With its earth tones, precision cuts, careful mapping and symbolic meaning, “Organic Study No. 1” is a highly accessible but still interesting piece waiting to be walked around, considered and explored.
Organic Study No. 1 Through September 26; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Government Center Rotunda Gallery, 702-455-0000.