Decades are pared down to newsmakers, be they politicians, wars or celebrity scandals. In the mid-1990s came the bizarre trifecta of O.J., Selena and Tupac, each entangled in tragedies fed to television viewers through on-the-spot media and a common denominator: the car.
In Car Show at the Clark County Government Center, artists Justin Favela and Sean Slattery look at the longtime bedfellows of tragedy and spectacle through the automobiles that became celebrities themselves, particularly the white Bronco involved in O.J. Simpson’s car chase on an LA freeway. (The Bronco is now available for parties and events, and was even displayed in the Luxor lobby in 2012.)
The artists say observation of shared cultural experience dominates the exhibit’s sentiment, but the works create a dialogue extending beyond the usual mourning and media hysteria circling the events that happened in three consecutive years and are now two decades old.
In “La Sangre Nunca Muere” Favela pays tribute to Selena—whose death, 20 years ago this month, prompted crying outbursts at his elementary school—through a life-sized piñata-inspired rendering of the red GMC truck famous in the standoff between Selena’s murderer, Yolanda Saldivar, and the authorities. Favela focuses on the idea of Saldivar, murderer and hostage, “being stuck,” offering a glimpse at her perspective. Colored with uneven red tissue paper, the truck appears as if it’s stuck in the ground and weeping. The bed of the truck is filled with fabricated purple, pink and silver flowers, colors Selena wore in performance at the Astrodome, all forcing a convergence of the Shakespearian-level, real-life drama.
“Proposal for a Memorial at Koval and Flamingo” reflects Slattery’s response to the murder of Tupac Shakur, who was gunned down in Las Vegas while riding in a black BMW. The minimalist piece is presented as a tombstone of sorts, as the image of the car became a shared memory of the event for Slattery and millions of others.
But the standout is the 16-foot-tall white triangle monolith on which a white Bronco heads north. Titled “Highway to Heaven,” the artists say it signifies O.J.’s escape—whatever that may be—and leave it open-ended to spark dialogue and interpretations belonging to the viewers. Within the exhibit, it offers a finality of sorts, a sense of looking in on the violence from a distant vantage point and spiritual perspective.
The artists will discuss the work, mostly made of paper, cardboard, plastic and Styrofoam, on March 20 at a reception held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Government Center.
Car Show: Justin Favela and Sean Slattery through May 8, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway, 702-455-7000.