Fine Art

CAC’s ‘Taste’ showcases the range of talented Las Vegas artists

David Ryan’s “Traced Gesture 5A.”
Dawn-Michelle Baude

Three and a half stars

Taste Through February 12; Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. Contemporary Arts Center, Soho Lofts.

The Contemporary Arts Center is resurrected with the Taste exhibition, proclaiming that fine art is alive and kicking in Las Vegas. Curated by Melissa Petersen with Brent Holmes, Taste drew a record 500-plus viewers to the opening at the CAC’s new digs. Conceived in part for the Zabludowicz Collection’s December symposium “Think Vegas,” Taste showcases 15 of the city’s artists. The accompanying catalog, beautifully designed by Holmes, opens with an essay by Danielle Kelly so insightful sparks fly. Although more than three-fourths of Taste’s works have been previously exhibited, they haven’t hung together: seeing them side by side makes a convincing case for the range and achievement of artists calling Las Vegas home.

The curation has a distinct Vegas feel. This is a city in which unrelated buildings share a sidewalk or wall—a tattoo parlor next to an accounting office next to a sewing shop. Turnover, flexible zoning and speed of construction result in surprising juxtapositions, wacky combos and glimmers of poetry. Taste, too, has a collaged quality. It’s a reminder that there isn’t a Las Vegas “school” of art so much as a profusion of artistic tendencies and styles.

Elizabeth Blau's "Glacial Pour."

Justin Favela’s “Untitled (Big Bird)” greets visitors. The larger-than-life papier-mâché children’s character, splayed on the floor in a compromising pose, is both sexualized and neutered, a rebranding of innocence that segues into pop-culture critique. Made of mold-blown, acid-etched glass, Brent Sommerhauser’s adjacent sculptures simultaneously emerge and recede from the ground, their philosophical significance rooted in cycles of creation. Further down the wall, Alisha Kerlin’s strange and amusing triptych of paintings—carrot in a storm, carrot deluged by eggplants, carrot at sea—depicts the symbolically loaded vegetable in a trio of unfolding narratives, while David Ryan’s mighty “Traced Gesture 5A” sculpture exudes an embryonic flamboyance that deflects story in favor of a visual climax of experience.

Elizabeth Blau’s cushy abstract painting, Adam Morey’s otherworldly sculptural chrysalis, Mikayla Whitmore’s photographic anvil, Chris Bauder’s sci-fi pillow and Mark Brandvik’s memory stencil mingle with works as distinctive as they are vigorous. With such notable stylistic range, Taste recalls another Zabludowicz Collection-timed show, Six Artists, a tightly curated, top-quality pop-up also featuring local artists (Sush Machida, Angel Delgado, Sean Slattery, JK Russ, David Ryan and Matthew Couper). Both shows testify to heaps of Las Vegas talent, and both make the case for exhibition venues to replace those that folded in 2015. As our city reinvents itself, so must its art scene. We are Lazarus, ground zero.

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