When I began checking out Las Vegas galleries in the mid 1990s, I didn’t make enough money to put local art on my walls. (I barely made enough to have walls.) And it was 10 years before I had a camera on my phone, 15 before I had a good one. So when I visited the library galleries or the Contemporary Arts Collective and found an appreciation for works by the likes of James Stanford or Diane Bush, I had to log them away in my memory and hope that they stayed there.
In that regard, times have changed for the better. I can now afford to invest in art. And if I want to linger over the works of Stanford or Bush, I can look at the recent books the two distinctive local artists have published. I could even give them away as gifts, as I recommend that you do.
James Stanford’s 264-page book Shimmering Zen ($60, available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon) is an outgrowth of the artist’s drive to create mandalas—geometric patterns, inspired by Stanford’s practice of Buddhism—assembled from Vegas’ neon signs both past and present. These shimmering mandalas spill out of Stanford as easily as language; his house is filled with them, and a bunch of his best works are hanging through November 24 at the Sahara West Library gallery (which is, honestly, where you should go first; the lenticular pieces alone are worth the trip.) The book presents these mandalas at the size of record sleeves, big enough to allow you to stare deeply into the details (in many of them, you can spot individual light bulbs) or for them to wash over you in a kaleidoscopic swirl. It’s like looking at maps of galaxies, with golden horseshoes and pink flamingos in place of galaxies and nebulae.
Diane Bush’s The Brits: England in the 1970s (approximately $8 plus international shipping, caferoyalbooks.com/shop/diane-bush-the-brits-england-in-the-1970s) might be a slighter read at only 28 pages, but it’s no less gripping and immediate. Comprising black-and-white photographs Bush took after emigrating to the United Kingdom in protest of the Vietnam War, The Brits is a fascinating document of a bygone street life. In some photos, you can feel the tumult of the early 1970s crowding in on the edges, drawing the air out of the frame (particularly in one shot where a chained performance artists stares defiantly at the viewer); in others, dancers waltz and men exult in pubs, reminding us that life goes on even if we’re convinced otherwise. A second volume, More Brits, will be released in December.
By the way: Bush notes that The Brits is now part of the permanent collection at England’s Tate galleries and at the MoMA in New York City. And Stanford debuted Shimmering Zen in London. If you’re a young art collector who wants to own work of international renown, put these books on your gift lists.