Witty works, humble materials

Trifecta’s ‘comedians and magicians’ is wicked smart and funny

Justin Favela’s Big Bird sculpture at Trifecta.

When there’s a 9-foot Big Bird sculpture lying on a gallery floor, his head to the side, eyes closed and beak agape, there’s a good chance it has something to do with artist Justin Favela, who’s known for this type of thing. His large-scale works, often made of paper and cardboard, take you to that happy place, but will have you scratching your head or mending your heart along the way.

It’s the common side effect of the comically bent, and the sort of thing artist Andreana Donohue had in mind when guest-curating a group show at Trifecta Gallery. Interested in artists making witty works with humble materials, she placed Favela at the top of her list, along with Alisha Kerlin.

“I like how their work is funny, but there’s a bit of sadness behind it, like with some of my favorite comedians,” Donahue says. “They’re very funny, but they’re sort of drawing from this depressing reality.”

Lisa Rock’s “Discarded Buscemi Eyes”

The show, comedians and magicians, opening this week at Trifecta, plays with all of those intellectual and emotional dualities in works rife with varying narratives built off unique materials and unexpected sources. Lisa Rock’s “Discarded Buscemi Eyes,” an entrancing two-color abstract Flashe on canvas, is one of only four paintings in the show (all hers). Philip Denker continues his work in stacked and cut PVC foam. Nathan Cote’s hydroponic piece includes lights, a swamp cooler and growing potatoes.

While Kerlin and John Stoelting’s collaborative “Slow Read” incorporates steel, stucco, mica, dirt and other materials, Kerlin’s “Jacks, Jennys and Gelding (for Bonnie)” is an oil pastel drawing playing out on a 6-by-9-foot canvas drop cloth. New to a Las Vegas exhibit is Canadian artist Hazel Meyer, who brings into the same conversation art, sports and women’s topics in works created from plastic menu boards, textiles and mesh.

An offshoot of the show is Donahue’s installation, “The Promise of a Horse and Saddle,” in the gallery’s Attachment Room. The work is an amalgamation of sci-fi archetypes and desert survival that incorporates Donahue’s objects—sticks, rocks and sulfur made with precision from stacked and sanded paper. Based on a story of two 19th-century miners who promised a horse and saddle to a native leading them to sulfur near the Black Rock Desert but never made good on their word, it plays off the idea, Donahue says, of one “searching for something elusive and the promise that it will bring.”

Individually and together, the elements create a sense of a lost something, but it’s the repetitive nature of “52 weeks (260 drawings)” on the surrounding walls that conveys the idea of loss with a ghostly sentiment. Using a highlighter pen, the artist repeatedly highlights (or crosses out) something that’s not there on sheets of paper affixed to the walls, each sheet marked with the same pattern simultaneously indicating memory and the passing of time.

Comedians and Magicians Through June 27. Monday-Wednesday & Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Trifecta Gallery, 702-366-7001. Opening reception June 5, 6-9 p.m.

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