Stay the night

Reno import Nada Motel offers up plenty worth examining

John Molezzo’s “Midnight Motor Lodge.”
Susanne Forestieri

Every year, artist Chad Sorg organizes Reno’s annual installation event, at which artists fill downtown motel rooms with their creations. For the second consecutive year, Sorg has schlepped a selection of these works to UNLV’s Barrick Museum—works that, in their original installation, must add a warm touch to an impersonal setting but which, in a museum, are subject to a harsher, more critical light.

Maybe I’m just cranky, but I feel compelled to tell the artists where I think they’ve taken a wrong turn, as well as where I think they’re right on track. Some are making a return visit to Las Vegas, and I can’t help but compare their recent work to last year’s efforts.

The Details

From the Calendar
Greetings From Nada Motel
Three stars
Through April 20
Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum, 895-3381.
Department of Art at UNLV: Greetings from Nada Motel

To John Molezzo: I loved last year’s large, surreal digital landscapes. This year, you’ve created a dense weave of images that look great on a computer, but are somewhat flat in person. I read on the label that you’ve added oil color and wax pen elements to the digital print, and it seems to me you were going for more texture. Maybe you need to let loose with the paints, color outside the lines—literally and metaphorically. Also, I think last year’s larger format worked better than this year’s, because it enveloped the viewer in your world, compensating for the generic flatness of digital images.

To S.K. James: Good choices sticking with the large format and going from color to black and white. I like this year’s desert landscape triptych because it has an austere haunting beauty, unlike last year’s frenetic apocalyptic scene of Fremont Street.

To Franz Szony: I found your large photo/glicee print—a montage of exotic and homoerotic imagery, similar to last year’s entries—too campy for my straight sensibility. But I loved your video. Your theatricality, flamboyance and talent for narrative have found a natural home on the screen, where you built suspense to an enigmatic, thought-provoking conclusion. And the silent-movie aesthetic was an inspired choice, enhanced by the grainy texture and crackling noise of the soundtrack. Since you play a starring role, your Valentino-like good looks are a huge asset. And your featured actress is adorable, with her kewpie-doll lips and kohl-outlined eyes.

To Dean Burton: I loved the marvelous textures and subtle colors of last year’s minimalist and abstract photographs of your studio detritus. This year’s photos, of antique lightbulb filaments, have a delicate intricate beauty, and I’m guessing that, when seen as a whole, they form a sort of cityscape. But I wasn’t aesthetically moved.

To Chad Sorg: I loved your mixed-media piece “Graze,” which mixes photography, cut paper and splatter painting on a birch-wood board. Your paintings, though attractive, lack interesting details and focus. We talked about all the photos you’ve taken crisscrossing the state in your job for the Nevada Arts Council and how you planned to use them in your work. I think that’s a great idea.

Elaine Parks is new to me, so I cannot compare her recent work to anything done in the past. Still, she is so good I’m including her in this review. Parks lives in the remote Northern Nevada town of Tuscarora—population 13. The landscape is her sanctuary, her source of inspiration, and she hopes her black-and-white grids of ceramic, knobby, crackled squares “relax the eye and mind and let the viewer look for the small variations in detail.” That is how she experiences the desert, and I found myself leaning in to examine the surface textures in awe of their beauty.

Ceramics, thought to be the oldest art medium, have given us a feel for what can be done with clay. Digital photography, on the other hand, has only been around for a few years. Artists are just beginning to experiment with it, and I sometimes think their artistic judgement is overwhelmed by the gee-whiz factor of manipulating exciting images.


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