Art

CAC’s latest Juried Show makes a resonant statement about the physicality of art

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Justin Favela’s “Popocatepetle e Iztaccihuatl vistos desde Atlixco after Jose Maria Velasco” on display at the Contemporary Arts Center for the 27th Annual Juried Show.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore
Dawn-Michelle Baude

Four and a half stars

Contemporary Arts Center's 27th Annual Juried Show Through April 29; Thursday, Saturday & Sunday, 3-6 p.m.; Friday, noon-6 p.m. Soho Lofts, 725-222-5896, lasvegascac.org.

The 27th Juried Show at the Contemporary Arts Center is all about the vibrancy of materials. Industrial insulation, recycled string, tissue paper, organic greenery, poured foam, sparkling plastic, mirror, hand-woven canvas, wood veneer—and even actual oil paint—fill the gallery. But instead of disintegrating into a mishmash of weirdness, the exhibition delivers a coherent statement about the physicality of art and art-making.

The success is due, in part, to juror Mary Leigh Cherry of Cherry and Martin Gallery in LA. From nearly 200 national entries, she nailed the selection of 18 paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works. Credit also goes to Exhibitions Chair Brent Holmes and JW Caldwell, Maureen Halligan and Christopher Jones, who hung and installed the art in an energetic, gotcha whole.

From Derrick Velasquez’s vinyl-tribal relic with phallic walnut mount, to Daniel Habegger’s grid-ish mixed-media 3D collage, many of the works are closer to sculpture than they are painting. Nicole Langille’s “Cut, Edge,” for example, loops and hangs strips of painted canvas in lyrical abstractions, while Michael Smith’s “Hocus Pocus” drapes human profiles in a morphing 2D-to-3D textile landscape. Two ceramic pieces—Catherine Schmid-Maybach’s “Silver State” with its geographical palimpsest and Joan Arrizabalaga’s “Three Sevens” slot machine—undercut expectations of dull clay modeling with unconventional surface glazing to create resonant forms.

CAC 27th Annual Juried Show

Even more traditionally “representational” artworks lead with their materials. For example, David Ohlerking’s “Death Valley Junction Automative”—a knockout of an architectural painting—uses thick, textured paint to turn a potentially banal depiction of an abandoned building into a purposeful dystopian headquarters. Similarly, Ben Madeska’s fetal “Oyster” is anything but flat. Justin Favela’s “Popocatépetl e Iztaccíhuatl vistos desde Atlixco after José María Velasco” transforms a famous, romanticized landscape into a tissue-paper tapestry whose shimmering form, color and texture vary with the viewer’s position.

Highlights also include three striking works based on light and transparency. Audrey Barcio’s glowing bone-powder/marble-dust/mica/acrylic painting manifests depth and texture via mysterious waves of shadow and luminescence, while Jennifer Henry’s intriguing ruffled cellophane sculptures bob among jellyfish, lumbar models and extraterrestrial life forms. Best in Show went to Margi Weir’s food-safety narrative, “Modern Family Farm,” a vinyl cutout applied directly to the CAC wall. In a Drawing 101 reversal, Weir’s black “positive” forms contrast with white “negative” space in a crisp pattern.

Garth Swanson’s hand-woven “Stovepipe” canvas, Karin Miller’s hanging tarot mobile and Maureen Halligan’s disciplined “Untitled” grid-landscape painting, among others, make this an exhibition you don’t have to go to LA or New York to “see”… if seeing is what you do in a show when the materials of the art object vie with content. Maybe it’s feeling with the eyes.

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