Back in September, the Barrick Museum launched a new program allowing UNLV faculty and staff a chance to curate exhibits by plucking works stored in its collection rooms. The opportunity results in fascinating little shows that might pair pre-Columbian works with contemporary art, or, as with its inaugural exhibit Little Sculptures in the Round, present small, three-dimensional contemporary pieces for object-based learning—an all-angle viewing distinct from Las Vegas’ monumental architecture and false fronts.
Initiated by Susanna Newbury, assistant professor of contemporary art history, criticism and theory, Barrick’s Teaching Gallery grants access similar to what she had at Oberlin College and later as grad student at Yale. Designed to enhance academic experience and research, such programs are common at higher-ed institutions and museums. At Barrick, professors curate shows to reflect coursework, and students learn to view works and write critically. Newbury hopes there will be campus-wide interest, as do Barrick staffers like artist Alisha Kerlin, who says, “I’d like to see what a French professor might select.”
Could be anything. The collection rooms hold more than 200 contemporary works belonging to the Las Vegas Art Museum and Barrick and more than 2,000 works from Barrick’s cultural collection of American Southwest and Mesoamerica. Staff favorites (which program director Aurore Giguet says change constantly) make up the 14-piece exhibit currently in the Teaching Gallery, adjacent to the main gallery. Giguet’s picks? A Sam Davis C-print and Maya jade maskette, the kind worn by emperors and possibly handed down as an heirloom.
Kerlin selected Daniel Habegger’s oil-on-canvas painting, “Plaza Towers,” which had been featured in a previous exhibit. “The longer it lived on the wall, the more I saw in it,” she says. “I like the way he’s dealt with the edges and the way that light in Las Vegas rakes across buildings. Every mark is essential. No line fully connects.”
Barrick Museum Teaching Gallery Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Thursdays till 8 p.m.); Saturday, noon-5 p.m. UNLV, 702-895-3381.