Fine Art

The aesthetics of Las Vegas and identity of place at CAC’s new show

David Ryan’s “Study for Traced Gesture 5A” at CAC’s new location.

Las Vegas is a visual city, famous for blasting image and text in an onslaught of stimuli. Rather than being what is, the signage says it. Advertising is the “is,” and over the years some amazing designers have chipped into the thematic cause.

In Sampler: Las Vegas at the Contemporary Arts Center, curator Matthew Couper takes that intersection of text and language to connect the Strip’s populist aesthetic with fine art, all while tying in a sense of place. As expected, Sampler behaves far differently than the hollering in the tourist corridors. It’s a more toned-down and thoughtful assemblage of image/text relationships, or as Couper says, a “pensive counterpoint” to Las Vegas’ bombastic signage.

Included is Israeli-born artist Leor Grady’s “Untitled (Bedroom),” a white kerchief tacked to the wall, creased from its fold. The word “perfection” stitched into the center in white thread in a small font pulls us in close to experience the work.

Mark Dutcher's "Sunnyland Ex. Exit" at CAC.

Brian Zimmerman’s electric-powered flip-clock, titled “Breathe-for mother,” slowly flips the individual letters that spell the word “breathe,” demanding the viewer slow down and pay attention.

But starting off the show is something more traditional: a vintage cross-stitch sampler borrowed from the Clark County Museum that decoratively announces, “A person travels the world over in search of what one needs and returns home to find it.” Augmenting the message is a house between two trees with smoke coming from its chimneys, eliciting coziness. It’s a fitting work, Couper says, explaining that samplers are often hung in homes to share that idea of home.

From paintings to collage to works that incorporate Braille—including a 1976 Robert Beckmann piece made from a found copy of the Braille version of the American Soccer Association’s Annual Report—the show is a broad representation of mediums and approaches to art. Among the 13 artists are seven who live in Las Vegas, some of whom reflect on Las Vegas directly or indirectly, including Jerry Misko and his abstract paintings of neon signage.

Also included is a rare appearance of work by Las Vegas artist David Ryan. The “Study for Traced Gesture 5A” reads much like the physical reaction of light expanding out of neon, says Couper, also pointing out its similarity to a cursive script and the way the composition of the work comes out from the center. Other artists in the exhibit are JW Caldwell, JK Russ, Mikayla Whitmore, Tony de Lautour of New Zealand, Georganne Deen of Joshua Tree, Califorina, Lauren Adkins and LA’s Mark Dutcher.

Sampler: Las Vegas Through December 14; Thursday and Friday, 3-7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2-7 p.m. Contemporary Arts Center, Alios, 1217 S. Main Street, 329-9569. Opening reception November 21, 6-8 p.m.

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