Anniversary present

CAC, UNLV’s MFA program team for flawed and fun twentytwenty

Laurenn McCubbin’s “Economic Flow Chart of a Las Vegas Call Girl”

How might a nonprofit contemporary art center kick off its 20th anniversary season? Share the love, embrace the edge and invite young artists from a local, graduate fine art program to put up a show, that’s how. At least, that’s how Las Vegas’ Contemporary Art Center decided to inaugurate its festivities. The resulting exhibition, twentytwenty, is a perfectly flawed daredevil of a show: inconsistent, provocative, too smart for its own good, smart enough to keep it pretty and just plain fun.

The title twentytwenty makes reference to the CAC’s anniversary, as well as that of UNLV’s MFA program. The partnership is apt: Members of the university’s art community were among the founders of the nonprofit space. Over the years, the two have had a nicely symbiotic relationship, with the CAC serving as a testing ground for young artists and producing fertile experimentation and lively dialogue that (ideally) energizes and informs the community.

twentytwenty embraces this spirit.

So what are the kids up to? They are asking a whole lot of questions, none of which have anything to do with making the perfect painting—that’s already been done. There’s nothing like getting lost in gorgeous sweet nothings, but don’t you also just love art that makes you think? twentytwenty is all about the think, and not just in an academic sense. It is student work, so prepare for art-historical references and contemporary trends out the yin-yang. But these young artists boldly invite the viewer to join their exploratory journey. Be brave.

Adam Stoves circles a visual aesthetic of failure: a witty, imperfectly crafted and generally messy middle finger to the status quo. Most obvious are “Punch” and “Note,” where the artist quite literally pokes a hole in finish fetish and art-world elitism. A little too smarty-pants, these pieces parlay in a sarcasm that some viewers might find condescending.

“Feel Me Right” and “Don’t Touch Me Here” are a little more magnanimous. The panel “Feel Me Right” uses a barely visible “here” to invite viewers to rub their hands over the graphite text; the graphite remains on the viewers’ hands, where they may then proceed to touch the “Don’t Touch Me Here” bulls-eyed on the adjacent wall. If the smudge-filled wall is any indication, many obliged. Smart without being smart-alecky, the work is irreverent (don’t touch the art!), interactive, and brimming with bits of art-historical allusion: drawing, process art, performative mark-making, institutional critique (don’t touch the art!).

Similarly influenced by trends toward the nonmonumental is Abby Coe. In a nod to minimalism (Donald Judd) and Light and Space (Robert Irwin), Coe takes simple materials—milk crates, string, ribbon—and creates joyful, highly formal compositions that transform both the sum of their parts and the space in which they reside. Particularly seductive is “Don’t Cross the Streams,” in which the artist uses pink tape to trace the direction of light being emitted from a track light. Effectively giving form to light, the two glowing pink flashes elegantly swim through the air. And who can resist a Ghostbusters reference?

The Details

Three and a half stars
Through October 1, Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m
Contemporary Art Center
107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 120, 382-3886

Also concerned with light, Victoria Hogan’s “Untitled” consists of a series of light bulbs receding in space, veiled by a translucent black drape. Not unlike peering into a black and white photograph, the piece nicely crystallizes into a meditation on looking, seeing and obscured vision.

Laurenn McCubbin’s politically charged installation “Economic Flow Chart of a Las Vegas Call Girl” maps the complex economic system driven by a sex worker. McCubbin’s print and audio portraits of sex workers further de-mystify the field, revealing the strong, self-employed feminist beneath the stereotype. Keen design smartly lures the viewer into rich social territory.

Shannon Eakins’ “I Made This for Us” hits the mark on all fronts, conceptually and aesthetically. Concerned with the effects of shrinking natural habitats on both man and animal, Eakins created gear to lure falcons residing in her hometown of Tacoma, Washington. As viewers, we are left with beautifully embroidered falconry gear, a mental image of the artist tenaciously engaging the birds, and a host of environmental and ecological questions.

This exhibition is not for the passive viewer. You can almost hear these young artists thinking through their hands, processing information through the work, demanding the same of the viewer. The exhibition is enthusiastically pumped with raw curiosity, and the curiosity is infectious. Exploratory, uncertain, risky—all of these components make for a super satisfying experience.

Happy Birthday, CAC; thanks for making us think.


Danielle Kelly

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