What can a new exhibit tell us about the foreclosure crisis?

A still from Emily Kennerk’s 22-hour video installation, which shows an image of every home foreclosed in 2009 for one second.

Once a boomtown, Las Vegas surged with prospectors seeking riches by buying land and selling homes — and the American dream — at a breakneck pace. Now many of those large stucco shells sit vacant, in disrepair, in quiet suburban neighborhoods dotted with mucky pools.

That juxtaposition of myth and reality plays out in Emily Kennerk's exhibit, America's No. 1 Foreclosed City: Las Vegas, opening August 3 at the Contemporary Arts Center.


America's No. 1 Foreclosed City: Las Vegas
Through Sept. 18.
In the Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston.
Hours: Noon-5 p.m., Tues-Sat.

Kennerk worked with California-based RealtyTrac to identify all foreclosed homes in Las Vegas in 2009, then created a 22-hour video installation that shows an image of every home for one second. She enlarged interior shots of foreclosed homes to room size, resulting in blurry, ethereal and slightly abstracted images, and then captured the exterior of a foreclosed home using powdered graphite on paper (similar to tombstone rubbings), creating a "memory," a ghostly relic.

"I walk my dog every day," the artist says. "You can't help but notice the foreclosures. This ghost town is forming around you. It's broader than Las Vegas. This is the first generation that's going to have to deal with the death of the American dream."

The show immediately follows Erin Stellmon's Reign of Glass, which pitted traditional ideas of community and city against the instant-city idea of CityCenter, and thus is the gallery's second effort to show us contemporary local issues in a different way than the news and statistics we're used to.

Kennerk's history of recontextualizing the everyday includes SuburbanNation, a 2007 exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in which she created full-scale portions of suburban houses — facades, porches, awnings — inviting contemplation about the homes on the Indiana horizon. Foreclosed City, which plays on the American enthusiasm to be No. 1, offers a somewhat more grim, but still worthwhile conversation.

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Kristen Peterson

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