A particularly amazing scene unfolded this week at UNLV’s Barrick Museum, where noted art conservator and curator Billie Milam Weisman worked alongside Jerry Schefcik and Aurore Giguet and an assortment of handlers to remove a giant, vigorous and densely textured abstract painting by Ali Smith.
Titled “Half-Life,” the 2007 work by the Southern California artist is, much like every other piece that arrived Monday at the Barrick, a beautifully constructed, dynamic work that would pounce on anyone walking past.
Against another wall awaited Brian Porray’s 2012 “DARKHORSE.” On another, a David Ryan organic stacked-wall sculpture, of a size unseen here in Las Vegas galleries. And on it went—dozens of works, many of them well-orchestrated collage-style paintings composed of juxtapositions made from poured paint, digital-style patterns, slick shapes, rich colors, gorgeous fluidity and abrupt hard-edge interruptions that exuded motion and depth.
The exhibit, titled Art for Art’s Sake, is a show Weisman curated last summer for Pepperdine University. It’s loud, immediate and lively, composed of work created in the past two decades by artists living much of their young lives in what the exhibit statement describes as “a cultural era dominated by the labyrinth of images on the Internet.”
Built on the premise of a 19th-century idea of art based on aesthetic autonomy without ideological value, it demonstrates what artists today are doing with color, shape, line and scale and will get your blood pumping. Weisman, who exudes a love for art and an appreciation for artists, describes it warmly as work that speaks directly to (and resonates within) the heart.
Included are works by Randall Schmit, Fernanda Brunet, Dominique Gauthier, Doyle Gertjejansen and Niklas Holm. Porray’s vibrant Luxor hotel-inspired “DARKHORSE” (synthetic polymer spray paint on canvas) combines bright colors, geometric forms and graphic-style design in a psychedelic rhythm.
If some of the artists on the roster sound familiar, it’s because their work is in the Las Vegas Art Museum collection and/or they studied at UNLV. This includes Ryan, Porray, Tim Bavington, Thomas Burke, Yek and Jason Adkins (whose impeccably slick-finished sculpture, “Soft Candied Vitamin,” is one of a handful of sculptures featured among the paintings).
It all landed in the lap of the Barrick after a phone call from Schefcik, director of galleries, to Weisman, inquiring about the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation collection and the possibility of UNLV someday receiving works on loan. As it happened, the Art for Art’s Sake exhibit that Weisman, director of the Foundation at Pepperdine’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, was to be wrapping up, making it available for UNLV.
“We don’t like the word ‘no,’” Weisman says during the install. “We like to share it. Frederick hated to have it in storage.”
And there’s plenty to share. The LA-based nonprofit owns more than 1,500 works, 400 of which are on display in a residential estate where curated tours are offered. The oldest piece is a Cezanne. From there it works forward: Picasso, Kandinsky, de Kooning, Rothko, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Ruscha and others, including emerging artists, past and present. The works are frequently on loan. Two museums, one at Pepperdine the other at the University of Minnesota, are in the late philanthropist and businessman’s name.
Billie Milam Weisman’s lengthy career in art—including stints at the Getty and LACMA—began after she received her master’s in art history from UCLA, then studied conservation at Harvard. She now works full-time on the foundation, and like her late husband, believes in sharing the experience of art. Funding for the exhibit? It was provided by the foundation.
Art For Art’s Sake Through April 26; Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Barrick Museum, 895-3381. Artist’s reception, January 30, 6:30-8:30 p.m.