HEAR US: A POP-UP STREET ART PROJECT
"(Left) Hear Us" Installation 2018 (Right) Poster by Christina Uran.
Graphic Design is no longer be a vestige discipline at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The College of Fine Arts has added design faculty and resources, and now it can keep up with a grounded photography program. Both design and photography can aim to match the gravitas of the painters and sculptors who graduated from the BFA and MFA programs. It also opens the door for 2D Design Fundamentals, a core class in any art program, to show how basics can be adjusted to an incoming wave of design students, and not just be a gateway to painting, drawing, and sculpture.
And yea, I used the method of street art
When I polled my 2D basic students on the first night of the fall semester, hands showed more than half were graphic design majors. That had me adjust the entry point in understanding the basics and consider the opening project use street art as the end execution. That aesthetic gives experienced and novice art students a shared starting point (other than comics and gaming).
During the second class in the first week of the semester, ideas came out of a discussion on campus safety. In anticipation of events marking the first anniversary of October 1, students were asked if events from a year ago was still on their mind, and what was their point of view?
The conversation was revealing.
Because of that talk that became about campus safety, that provided content. An early assignment called “Visual Statement” was modified to respond to some of the topics brought up that night.
The work made a debut, rather an infiltration, at the 2nd Annual Art Walk on October 12, days after a flurry of memorials were held. (UNLV is ten minutes away from the grounds where a gunman fired into the concert grounds).
It also gave students the chance to create unsanctioned artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues. Though not in the street, the installation had foot traffic when people attending the art walk entered the courtyard. They were temporary works that can be pulled down easily, still a subsequent incarnation of stencil work, wheat-pastes and sticker art, the common forms of modern street art. They were installed on a door of the classroom numbered 152. Each piece uses the hashtag of #152Design.
The classroom is across the way from an older guerrilla project; a large paper-mache ear, presumably representing Van Gogh’s lost appendage. The ear has been adopted by the art department and now a landmark piece. Building services even paints it the same color as Grant Hall when they spiffy up the building. It is also a mascot. Now the ear speaks. With the arrival of new chair Marcus Civin, it has been given its own Instagram account.
While some of the names of the individual pieces were still waiting to be set by the artists, as a collective, near the ear, it became an installation titled “Hear Us.”
The first directive was to make a statement on a caution sign. It strayed as artists played with the ideas of how design basics solve the problem of saying something with clarity to communicate a message. The usual practice of shading and perspective was traded out for coming up with an idea, play with balance, thinking of positive and negative space, forming a stronger sense of line and form to make it work; all to make an abstract idea clear.
It also became a way to introduce students how to explain the work without the jumble of academia prose. When they pitched their ideas, they were instructed that was the beginning of an artist’s statement. They were to expand the pitch into a written assignment.
Courtesy Megan Lufcy
A few stayed with the original prompt of the image on a traffic warning sign; black graphic on a yellow background. “Two guns are pointed at each other, and one is a toy gun with an orange tip. Other than that, they look exactly the same,” wrote Megan Lufcy. “It's meant to get the viewer to think about the gun obsession in our country. We even give toy guns to children, and then wonder why they can't tell the difference when there's an accident with a real gun. I wasn't allowed to play with toy guns as a child, so that issue has always confused me.”
Courtesy Patrick Manabat
Some stayed with gun safety, but Patrick Manabat did not use the idea of a sign. “I originally wanted to emphasize the menacing look of the gun in contrast to the confetti which represents something more flamboyant; however, I felt that it could be interpreted in many different ways,” said Manabat. “I decided to leave that aspect as a part of the piece. This was just to get people thinking about the idea of gun safety, and to spark insight on the topic itself.”
Others expanded beyond guns, but still stayed within the framework of “Visual Statement” as a personal comment. If there was another subject of safety they preferred to speak to, and their pitch was well thought out, it was accepted. Often the image became more personal. Daniel Darden had thoughts on prescription drugs.
Courtesy Daniel Darden
“Many people see prescription drugs as trustworthy since they are legal and come from a doctor, but there is a dark face behind what long term use and abuse of these drugs can do,” wrote Darden. “College students are always warned about drug use, but it seems that the message is off track and doesn’t stick a lot of the time. I believe this is because students are pushed to make their grades a priority over their mental health.”
Courtesy Michelle Harper
Michelle Harper used the assignment as the chance to question the school mascot, and deconstructed the meaning of Rebel. “With UNLV being an extremely diverse school, I thought the mascot should be as well. I reimagined the mascot as an indigenous man wearing a mask. I figured that with no specific race, many students could relate and identify with him more,” said Harper, whose hip vigilante “embraces the rebel culture we have at our school.”
During the critique stage, the class was visited by Las Vegas-based street artists Sage Sage (There She Is Art) and Shawn Gatlin (You Killed Me First), whose wheat-pastes are seen primarily in the Las Vegas arts district and Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The work from the class in room 152, thus the hashtag 152 design, follows cues from guerilla artists who create community relevant content that brings ephemeral attention to social causes through "art provocation."
Courtesy Marlyne Lopez
There were also opposing ideas. Marlyne Lopez preferred to be hopeful in a time of difficult questions. Her reasoning on the discussion was valid, and she was encouraged to approach the direction that was forming in her mind. In her statement she later wrote:
It seems that people want to have strong, unrelenting opinions. Terrible things happen, and that causes less conversation and more confrontation. Many people have wrestled with this aspect of society, trying to find solutions to it.
Flower Essence Repertory by Patricia Kaminski has a unique take on the Baby Blue Eye Flower. Kaminski uses the flower to treat what feels uncompassionate, the loss of trusting others, a loss of innocence. I am not proposing that everyone should use flower oil. I am stating that everyone, to some degree, understands loss.
This art is reminder to find a way to be less cynical and to be honest. It doesn't have to be drastic, just being able to have honest discussion with others. This isn’t to say that opposing thoughts are invalid, or we should ignore issues. When negative things are overwhelming, we should also look around at the big world, and realize that bad things don’t define how we are, how we see the world, and how we see one another. Good can be found where we wouldn't have thought to look.
After a storm, the sky is still there, and a flower will bloom.
Lopez's art and statement was a gentle counterpoint to cautionary messages.
These undergrads not exhibited in galleries during art walk have them be like street artists isolated from the formal art world. By coming up with a concept, solution, then the application of basics to make an abstract idea clearer, they voiced ideas in public space, near the site of the October 1 shooting. That added meaning to the vulnerability and voice of students on an open campus.
Courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
By Andrea Lepage
Mexican-born naturalized U.S. citizen, Xavier Tavera (b. 1971) recalls crossing the U.S.-Mexico border a few times with his family as a small child, saying, “I remember the tension and anxiety it produced when my family approached the crossing bridge by car.” Not breaking any laws, Tavera recollects that the family nonetheless waited in uneasy silence until they passed through the checkpoint. Tavera’s memory of crossing underscores the power of the border. The border has—since its inception—functioned as a visible manifestation of the U.S.'s perceived power and political dominance over its southern neighbor. In an interview, Tavera summarized the point: “Mexicans, Latinx and Chicanos—regardless of place of birth and migratory status, and even Latinx living in the U.S. that have never crossed the border—are deeply marked by the notion of border. ‘Border’ is a concept that has defined us symbolically and culturally.”
President Donald Trump’s nativist rhetoric combined with his promises to enhance border security and build a border wall have led to increased international focus on the borderlands and those who pass through them. Tavera’s Borderlands series visually explores this territory and also considers the individuals who occupy it. He notes that his conceptualization of the Borderlands series emerged in response to the current administration’s language about the border, explaining, “The abrasive rhetoric that the current government administration has used towards the border has been one of the propelling motivations of this project.” The Borderlands photographs seek to mitigate the detrimental effects of such speech on Latinx communities by engineering close encounters with these individuals who occupy the region and by proposing imaginary alternatives to the border wall.
Tavera took his first of three trips to the U.S.-Mexico border in January of 2017, intending to document the surrounding borderlands and to examine the border wall. Following its path, Tavera revisited the border in May of 2017 and again in March of 2018. He expects to return at least three more times to bring the Borderlands project to completion. During these trips, Tavera alters the photographed landscapes by digitally superimposing tables, tunnels, or shelters on the desolate terrain.
In considering the possible use of these imaginary projects by unpictured communities, Tavera asked, “Would we find commonalities or differences in a given space? What would be the risks of communication and involvement with a different culture or community?” Tavera’s phrasing provides a counterpoint to Trump’s frequent anti-immigrant statements that emphasize difference and reject the possibility of cross-cultural commonality. Trump’s March 13, 2018 tweet—issued during Tavera’s third trip to the border—is representative of the U.S. president’s fear-inducing rhetoric:
Tavera’s series visually rejects speech that casts the children and adults who cross the border with or without authorization as threats to U.S. citizens. Instead, the artist conceptualizes the border as a scar across the rugged landscape, a characterization that evokes Chicana theorist Gloria Anzaldúa’s 1987 description of the border in her seminal text Borderlands/La Frontera. Anzaldúa defined the border as both an injurious and injured site, “una herida abierta [an open wound] where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.” Extending Anzaldúa’s metaphor to the physical border barrier, Tavera concludes that "the political character of this open wound materializes in a wall with sentiments of nationalism, protectionism and absurdity.”
Like Robert Misrach’s Border Cantos photographs, many of Tavera’s Borderlands images are unpopulated, revealing only the residues of human presence, and even those traces appear unwelcome. One of Tavera’s photographs centers on a set of chained tires of the kind that would be dragged behind U.S. border patrol trucks to smooth out the terrain. The procedure, variously called “pulling the drag,” “sign cutting,” or “cutting for sign,” allows border patrol agents to identify new footprints to track and capture migrants
Courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
Tavera’s photographs are part of an upsurge of border-related artwork produced since 2006, the year when then-president George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act. The bill sought to restrict passage across the border using systematic human and drone surveillance and through the creation of reinforced fencing. In one of his photographs, Tavera captures a surveillance blimp apparently preparing for flight under the cover of night. The star-like lights surrounding the blimp penetrate the pitch black landscape, serving as absurd beacons of protectionism amidst the expanse of the borderlands.
Courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
Courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
Courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
"What I like about portraiture," Tavera said, "is the contact with the people.” In a 2016 interview, Tavera discussed the power of the camera to grant him access to people and to open a metaphorical window into their lives. He underscores that “the main purpose of this is to try to understand, not to make assumptions” about the sitters. Despite Trump’s attempt to conjure up the false image of an army of Mexicans ready to overtake the border, the U.S. is not a coveted destination for all.
Courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
Tavera photographed three dancers on the streets of Nogales, Mexico, for example, who had no intention of crossing the border. Like Tavera, it was, instead, their destination. The dancers carried drums and each wore rattles crafted from empty bullet shells. In the course of their brief exchange, Tavera never saw their faces, which were obscured by masks with antlers. Verbal communication was minimal because their Spanish was limited and Tavera did not speak their indigenous language. Nevertheless, he learned that they were fulfilling a vow to travel around the Mexican countryside for a year. When Tavera encountered the dancers, they were only weeks away from their return back to their waiting families in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Recognizing the similarity of their pilgrimage to the border-as-destination, Tavera recounts that he asked permission to touch the religious figure of San Judas (Saint Jude) imprinted on the drum. Commonly associated with hopeless causes, Saint Jude is also the patron saint of hope. In his recollection of this meeting, Tavera told me, “I recall the encounter as a sign of protection to my travels from mystical creatures from the border.”
Tavera has often discussed the power of portraiture to foster prolonged confrontations of the type that rarely happen in person. With portraits, he said, “people can approach, and look at them, and analyze every little detail: the earrings, the makeup, the hat, the mustache. And, that’s something that unfortunately we don’t do in the street because it is very intrusive. Here, you have the opportunity to look and to analyze.” Oftentimes, close looking reveals the absurdity of the situation.
Tavera photographed a married couple, one on each side of the border fence in the small desert town of Jacumba, California. The recent erection of the border fence has complicated their way of life and disrupted familial connections that used to flow more freely across a once invisible border between the U.S. and Mexico. Tavera tells their story:
“They used to walk to his mother's house on the Mexican side daily but with the new fence in place he has to travel thirty minutes to the crossing check point and thirty minutes to svhis mom’s place. They have been married for many years and now they have to spend weeks separated by the fence.”
The husband rests one hand on the bars and the other affectionately on his wife’s shoulder. Despite the barrier physically separating the couple, Tavera records an intimate moment of communication and exchange.
Courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
In his 1995 collection of short essays, The Crystal Frontier, writer Carlos Fuentes noted that the U.S.-Mexico border is not just a line of demarcation that separates two nations from each other, but rather a site through which people, ideas, and commodities flow. Fuentes wrote, "Properties, customs offices, real estate deals, wealth and power provided by control over an illusory, crystal border, a porous frontier through which each year pass millions of people, ideas, products, in short, everything…” The border wall—always incomplete—stands as a symbolic attempt to control the flow of people, yet it cannot contain the flow of ideas. Tavera’s Borderlands photographs penetrate the physical barrier to foster communication and underscore commonalities across the porous border.
Andrea Lepage is associate professor of art history at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The exhibition on the work of Xavier Tavera was held at ProjekTraum FN l'atelier Glidden Wozniak in Friedrichshafen, Germany (July 2018). This reflection by Lepage on Tavera's works will be expanded and translated into German for a future catalogue.
Xavier Tavera, Untitled, Borderlands, 2017-18. Images courtesy of the artist. © Xavier Tavera.
MEANWHILE, BANKSY SAVES WACO
“Haight Street Rat" at Cultivate 7 Twelve in Waco, Texas. Photo by G. James Daichendt
by G. James Daichendt
In 2010, the anonymous street artist Banksy went on a promotional campaign installing art in major cities to coincide with the release of his documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” The city of San Francisco was fortunate to be one of his targets and the artist created six stencils during the course of his stay. One particular image from this trip, now known has the “Haight Street Rat,” has become the focus of a 2017 documentary movie and has played a major role in facilitating dialogue about who owns public space, museum politics, artist rights, and the importance of conservation.
Brian Greif is the individual who saved the painting from being painted over by the city at the expense of his own pocketbook. Filming the entire process, Grief produced the film “Saving Banksy” that outlines his story of being offered hundreds of thousands of dollars for the work, his unsuccessful attempt to donate it to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the interesting dilemmas one faces when they become responsible for something that is valuable (monetarily and culturally),and how these ideals don’t always correlate.
Grief did not to sell that work. Instead he decided to make it available to borrow for public exhibitions. Since he made that choice the rat has traveled quite a bit. Most recently to Waco, Texas, a small town not necessarily known for street art but one that hoped to use the enthusiasm for Banksy to further art education, bring the art community together, and garner momentum to host bigger and better arts experiences in the western town in central Texas.
Brian Greif produced the film “Saving Banksy” Courtesy Greif, Bottom Right: Graffiti in Waco, Texas. Bottom Left: James Daichendt lectures on street art at Baylor. Photos courtesy of Daichendt
One of the stipulations for exhibiting the Banksy is that it must be free and accessible to the public. The Waco rendition of the exhibition, titled “Writing on the Wall,” was an opportunity for local artists to curate a professional show and to set a higher standard for exhibitions in the area. A mix of education and promotion, local partners including non-profit Creative Waco, the gallery Cultivate 7 Twelve, and curator/painter Ty Nathan Clark included several local artists in the exhibit to showcase regional talent.
The exhibit was then complemented with a full slate of educational events that provided language and history for talking about art and street art in particular.
In addition to the local art scene, the Baylor University Art Department also collaborated in some educational events and even included the Banksy exhibit in some of their assignments to ensure students engaged with the important concepts of the show.
There are also plans to bring additional internationally recognized artists to Waco to install public works. The French artist, Blek Le Rat is scheduled to visit this year and install several works around the city in collaboration with local businesses, an exciting development for the city.
The importance of the arts cannot be underestimated through this important time in Waco. While Banksy had a particular motive when creating the “Haight Street Rat” in 2010, he certainly could not have imagined how many lives it would impact. Brian Greif, the collector and aficionado responsible for this momentum, now manages the careers of several street artists and has enjoys this new direction in his life. The city of Waco is equally excited as the local arts community has now been connected with the academic community in a way that has never been realized.
Banksy’s appeal as an artist is remarkable especially the recognizability of his name. There is a lot to question regarding the narrative surrounding the “Haight Street Rat” and even the aesthetics of the image itself – after all, it was originally meant to be viewed from a distance high on a rooftop. While it may not be a supreme example of Banksy’s work, it is accessible, and it brings an excitement that makes dialogue about the arts easier. An important lesson in aesthetic education and what we need to do as arts professionals to build and grow our collective audiences.
“Haight Street Rat” in original San Francisco situ.
G. James Daichendt, Ed.D. is an art critic and author of six books. He serves as Dean of the Colleges at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. You can read more of his writing at San Diego Tribune.
PtD Field Notes: If you are near Waco, you can see “Haight Street Rat” in residence at Cultivate 7 Twelve in the exhibition "Writing on the Wall." It has been extended through Saturday, November 17. An Evening with Brian Greif is now on Friday, November 16. Extra Note: "Saving Banksy" was screened at UNLV in April 2017 with filmmaker Colin Day. The documentary is now streaming at Netflix.
Courtesy the artist
"Jubilation Inflation" is the Tamar Ettun's solo show at the UNLV Barrick Museum of Art, the anchor exhibition for the Second Annual College of Fine Arts Art Walk on October 12. "This is the culmination of the five years color project and the first time all four inflatables are shown together," says the artist on Facebook. "The name for the exhibition is taken from a poem [On Orange] by Rose McLarney, who wrote me this beautiful piece about orange and let us include it." At 6:30 p.m. College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy J. Uscher will toast Las Vegas arts community at The Barrick. The art walk goes on until 9 p.m. (The Beam hosts ¡Americanx!)
Photo: Jo Russ
Jo Russ "Desert Birdlife Soiree" opened at Delano Las Vegas. Her vivid collage work is now an installation that allows guests to interact in the lobby with this art-as-immersion experience. Runs through January. Instagram hashtags are #jkruss #delanoartseries #desertbirdlifesoiree
Photo: Jo Russ
The Studio at Sahara West Library is filled with works from James Stanford for "Shimmering Zen." The exhibition features his landmark digital collages that revisit neon signs and Las Vegas landmarks as a source (metaphor) of personal spirituality. Resource Magazine Online has an extensive interview with Stanford.
Los Angles media covered "The Las Vegas Portraits Project, 1 October Memorial Exhibit" at Clark County Rotunda Gallery. "Artists from America and Canada and as far away as Greece and Peru chose their subjects based on news articles and photos published after the attack." A special ceremony will be held on October 4.
Geoff Carter interviewed Justin Favela during his East Coast gallery tour. Las Vegas Weekly .
RETNA's large-scale letterforms are one of the leave-behind murals in downtown Las Vegas. My first pass to see new murals in the Life is Beautiful footprint reveals there are not many new works. No surprise since wall space is getting scarce. If you missed it, Bordalo II was interviewed via email by the LasVegas Review Journal, and a preview at Las Vegas Weekly that later confirms two projects were down after the festival ended September 22.
Jerry Misko's new mural Casino Center and Hoover in Downtown Las Vegas. The phrase at the end is "A Place in the Sun." I am guessing that is the title of this new "Misko."
OUTSIDE LAS VEGAS
Above: Tagging with light.
- ModernMet compiled Instagram images from Burning Man 2018.
- The Nevada Museum of Art's retrospective on photographer Anne Brigman made ArtNewspaper
- "Far from the established New York design world, California became a haven for avant-garde designers, a hub of innovation in both discourse and practice." West of Modernism: California Graphic Design, 1975–95 opens at LACMA
- Ai Weiwei is in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times has a profile by Deborah Vankin and a review by Christopher Knight.
- The J. Paul Getty Trust now has the papers of the pioneering assemblage artist Betye Saar, and with that came the news the Getty Research Institute will begin The African American Art History Initiative - New York Times
- Grandest U.S. show to date of Victor Hugo drawings opens this week at The Hammer Museum. It has an "unprecedented" number of loans from Bibliothèque Nationale (18) and Maison de Victor Hugo (25) I Art Newspaper
- "Art, science and skateboarding were the magic combination of interests that propelled Halloran into her life as an artist." James Daichendt on artist Lia Halloran, who began her residency at Lux Art Institute I San Diego Tribune
- Jean-Michel Basquiat's life to become a Broadway musical. "The production will have access to both Jean-Michel’s art and personal archives (which is likely to make for some pretty extraordinary sets)." I ArtNet
- Projections on buildings became video public art. Twice. Chicago and Los Angeles,
- ArtPrize Public Projects returned for its third year.
- Dartmouth College to move a set of racially insensitive murals that offended Native American students to an off-campus storage facility I USNews
- East coast writer takes a look at street art murals in Curaçao 'cause the weather is warmer there. I Forbes
- You have seen it, but here it is again. Brett Kavanaugh Senate testimony was mash-upped with Jules pre-hit speech in "Pulp Fiction." Samuel Jackson approved.
As seen on instagram. When critiquing a project using street art themes you must bring in qualified vandals. Sage Sage and Shawn Gatlin came to my 2D Basic class at UNLV to see student work that are a response to campus safety (and a few other topics). The work will seen during UNLV College of Fine Arts Annual Art Walkin undisclosed locations.
FILM REVIEW: 'THE WRONG TODD'
Jesse Rosen and Anna Rizzo as Todd and Lucy in “The Wrong Todd.”
By María Margarita López
“The Wrong Todd” hit the right notes with the audience at the Arclight Theater in Culver City during the final week of the LA Film Festival. This sci-fi comedy from writer/director/editor Rob Schulbaum, and producers Anthony Ambrosino and Ric Murray, is an entertaining film with a far-out premise that is bumpy at the beginning. Once you’re buckled in “The Wrong Todd” takes you on a delightful trip.
Todd (Jesse Rosen) is set in his ways. He has no desire to go beyond his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. So when his girlfriend, Lucy (Anna Rizzo), gets a promotion and asks him to move with her to Seattle he is anything but supportive. Lucy is torn between Todd and her career. Out of thin air, Todd’s evil twin arrives and sends him to a parallel universe without anyone missing him. The Other Todd says and does everything Lucy had only dreamed of, including agreeing to move to Seattle. She is thrilled. Only Lucy’s brother, Dave (Sean Carmichael), suspects things aren’t as they seem.
Meanwhile in a parallel universe, Other Dave, his mustachioed doppelganger, struggles to believe his down-and-out friend and eventually to help Todd open his eyes and go home.
Sci-fi and low-budget are not inherently a good combination but Schulbaum makes it work. The film is a laudable first feature effort by this first-time feature director. Themes of love and loss play well against the parallel universe construct and it has a satisfying ending. Shot in Rhode Island in twelve days, the filmmakers made the most of their meager resources. Schulbaum manages to pull off the blend of sci-fi and comedy well, writing sympathetic characters with believable story arcs and conceivable universes. Technical aspects at times were a little rough but once you’re invested in the characters and their world it’s easy to go along for the ride.
The cast works well together in engaging the audience. Notable performances include Rosen. He pulls off amusing distinctions in his portrayal of both Todd and his ruthless twin, Other Todd, who will stop at nothing to be with Lucy. Erin Rose as Lucy’s friend Abby and Carmichael shine playing off each other – particularly during an argument where more is said with her face and his mustache.
The film is a refreshing contrast to the higher octane films out there this season. It will play at film festivals across the U.S. to be announced soon.
Film Review: 'The Wrong Todd'
Reviewed at LA Film Festival, September 24, 2018.
Rob Schulbaum, Writer/Director/Editor
Anthony Ambrosino & Ric Murray, Producers
Starring Jesse Rosen, Anna Rizzo, Sean Carmichael, Derek K. Moore, Erin Rose
María Margarita López has covered arts and performances for paintthisdesert sister blog, viewfromaloft, since 2011. She is a film producer and co-founder of AjuuaEntertainment, plus consulted and produced media under her companyValorFilms since 2005. López and Fuentes have been working together on varied projects ever since they worked in the section of windowless rooms at Variety.
"¡Americanx!" exhibition name is inspired from the gender-neutral term LATINX, which was accepted into Webster's Dictionary in September 2018.
Proposed exhibition graphic by Ed Fuentes
EThe Donna Beam Gallery will be contributing to the UNLV College of Fine Arts Annual Art Walk with ¡Americanx!, the first group exhibition featuring local Latin artists – perfectly suited for a campus that has been moved to the top of U.S. News & World Report’s annual listing of the most diverse universities in the nation. A rush of PR was based on the 2018 list that had UNLV -- with an enrollment of “Hispanic” students reaching 29 percent -- in a three-way tie with Andrews University and Rutgers University. Just released is the 2019 list that places UNLV in a two-way tie with Rutgers.
That gives “¡Americanx!” multiple layers of meaning and intent.
“I had thought about organizing an exhibition of Latino artists off and on for several years. But it was on a smaller scale of maybe one, or two, or three artists,” said Jerry Schefcik, director of the Donna Beam Gallery, who was eyeing touring exhibitions of Latin and Chicano art, including those featuring the Cheech Marin Collection.
There has been interest from UNLV to present contemporary art from the Americas. In 2015, “Through Windows, Through Curtains, Call On Us,” curated by Art History Professor Robert Tracy, featured the work of four Cuban artists, making that UNLV’s first group show focused on Latin works. Yet, local artists were not given many ways to think local exploration of Latino/a/x works would be noticed as contemporary art, or if there would be a chance to presented as a group, as seen in other urban art cores around the Southwest.
If there has been change, that must be credited to UNLV alum Justin Favela, who has increased his national reputation as an artist and raised the profile of the area with the podcast Latinos Who Lunch, which he is a co-host and co-producer with art historian Emmanuel Ortega. A few weeks before the opening of my thesis exhibition in Spring 2018, I adjusted it to focus on Post-Chicano art themes and was noted as the first solo Latinx Art exhibition.
Now Schefcik is leading the charge through "¡Americanx!, which is co-curated by UNLV Faculty member Salgado and myself. Between the three of us, we shared information on Latino/a/x artists producing works in the region. The list grew quickly. “I was aware of a number of artists, but I knew that there were probably more that I was not aware of. There are probably more still that I don't know about,” says Jerry. “It was exciting to learn of Latino artists in Vegas, and the possibility of a second edition of this show is good.”
The artists in the region are not just representing Las Vegas natives and transplants, but other Latin American countries, which shifted to the idea that the final works were not just specific to Chicano art themes. “The definition of artist expanded too. The addition of pop culture artists in this venture in an exciting element of this exhibition,” says Jerry.
October 1 – 27
EXTENDED TO NOVEMBER 21
The Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery
Opening Reception: Friday, October 12, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
(During the Second Annual UNLV Art Walk)
Artists: Omayra Amador, Yasmina Chavez, Orlando Montenegro Cruz, Natalie Delgado, Lolita Develay, Justin Favela, Ed Fuentes, Tony Gomez, Adolfo Gonzalez, Karla Lagunas, Raymond “StingRay” Pratt, Krystal Ramirez, Fernando Reyes, Miguel Rodriguez, Checko Salgado, Javier Sanchez, Sunday Slackers, Jess Vanessa, Luis Varela and David Velix.
2018 UNLV College of Fine Arts Annual Art Walk
October 12, 2018
5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
UNLV College of Fine Arts unites to celebrate the arts.
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.: Guests are invited to begin their evening at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, where they will enjoy the opening of the Tamar Ettun's, Jubilation Inflation, a participatory installation of inflatable spaces, performance, and sculpture. Also enjoy new and exciting exhibitions at Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, Grant Hall Gallery, and the Jessie & Brian Metcalf Gallery.
6:30 p.m.: College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy J. Uscher leads a toast to the Las Vegas arts community at the UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art.
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.: We embark on a series of art walks across the campus lawns. Representatives from the schools of Architecture and Music, the departments of Dance, Film, Art, Theatre, and the Entertainment Engineering & Design program will ensure this is a night to remember.
John Van Hamersveld's work in progress. Photo PaintThisDesert.
Designer John van Hamersveld stood in front of his home that sits at an angle against the hills of Rancho Palos Verdes. With Sunday morning coolness he donned all black, topped off with a dapper hat. He wore his usual thick-framed glasses, custom made and named after him: The Hammer. They have the same boldness as the black lines seen in his illustrations. The black, the hat and the bold glasses are his costume, he says.
John, or JVH as he is known, is the artist and designer with whom you’re likely already familiar. He’s created work since the 1960s and inspired many of today’s contemporary street artists. Walk in the house you see an archive of work that mark design history, and the books on the shelves and architecture of his home are a clue to his influences. He digs the modernists.
Born in 1941, the child of the Sixties is a surfer-turned-Chouinard Art Institute student and best known for early landmark design that responded to cultural influences using modernist line and form. “Hard-edges...” says JVH softly, referring to the lines in the illustrations that were framed and sitting in his living room, that doubles as a studio. The prints were ready to picked up for “The Mural Show Loma” at Keller Art Gallery on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University. It's an exhibition that is a cross history of his new and old works, and being curated to be read and “posed in a different way,” says JVH. It is also a way to show how a designer from the traditional printing era is elegantly basking in a digital world.
Screen grab from a video featuring "Signs of Life" ( 2010) created by John Van Hamersveld for the Viva Vision at Las Vegas Fremont Street I YouTube
Whole JVH was commissioned a mural for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, in many ways his return to public art was kicked off in 2009 and 2010. with "Signs of Life,” the Viva Vision Light Show for the Fremont Experience in downtown Las Vegas. It featured JVH’s signs and symbolism as a moving collage of image and color backed up with a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. The JVH public art portfolio grew from there and included the Hermosa Beach Mural Project (2015), Downtown Los Angeles 7th & Fig installation (2017), and The Vans Mural (2018) at their corporate facility. Even in static form the images are still a movement of layers in psychedelic colors that overlap and collide. These recent murals are evidence that he is still a bad boy of revamped Bauhaus with this public art that looks like it was created after he was partying with artist Ellsworth Kelly, designer Saul Bass, and theorist Marshall McLuhan in a hotel room, and tossed a television out the window as a rejected symbolism of media as message.
While JVH has adjusted to many changes throughout his career, he notes that foundation began when studying under the mid-century New York school of artists who fled to the Coast. He also saw how design was aimed for consumers to attract “Service Style Dollars” that purchased lifestyle. Then it all changed again, and he kept up. “I wanted to go over the success of two decades over art and design, plus media,” he says of the upcoming show. It is as simple as revisiting his drawing ability and design vernacular that is applied and supported with digital technology.
“I wanted the exhibit to go beyond his legacy of beach culture and 'The Endless Summer,'" says exhibition curator David Carlson. “It is valuable for students studying art and design to connect with the process of an artist.”
The style that serves his public art made a debut as a poster: “The Endless Summer.” The graphic is still his calling card. It was designed in 1964 as key art for friend Bruce Brown, a surf culture documentarian. You know the image with the film’s two surfing subjects, Mike Hynson and Robert August, as shot by JVH at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point. He took his photo and revisited it, the images were then screen-printed and titles hand lettered. Now in any exhibition or story on JVH, this poster with shadowed surfers on day-glo colors is always featured. It has been referred to as the California version of pop-art, or a cinematic throwback, but that is really the subtext. The artist gave us an image of a surfer’s crucible in waiting for a right wave.
After the poster for “The Endless Summer” was introduced it become part of surfing lore. JVH then went on to work at Capitol Records to design album covers, including the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” and The Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main St.” His is also known for the now-classic Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane Pinnacle Rock Concert posters, a look that was anti-establishment by way of corporate budgets. Jimi Hendrix was given an iconic look that was a reference to the idea that he was already recognized as an experimental rock God, a classical musician of his era. In turn, for New West Symphony, JVH turned Ludwig Van Beethoven into a long-haired rock star, a classical musician become whose locks became bolts of electricity.
For five decades John van Hamersveld has been using his mastery of hard lines for an organic connection to image and message, spiked with Surfer-Hippie cultural politics. He guided design to brand pop-culture identity to an international audience, all with a California attitude that stands at the front door greeting those who want to share the vibe.
"The Endless Summer" documentary and poster reached its 50th anniversary in 2014. The film had a limited release in 1964 before being released worldwide in 1966. Courtesy John van Hamersveld
JHV's 2005 poster for Cream. Courtesy John van Hamersveld.
John Van Hamersveld "Water Tank Mural" (2018) El Segundo, California. Courtesy the artist.
JVH influence on Shepard Fairey's early thinking about design as art began with this poster promoting Jimi Hendrix. “I think that image immediately made an impression on me...the significance of it a perfect icon really sunk in," Fairey said in a conversation with JVH. "There is no more (visual) information than necessary."
JVH influence is counted in decades. Las Vegas-based street artist YKMF paid homage to JVH in a recent reappropriation of "The Endless Summer." Courtesy of the artist
John van Hamersveld at home, in the summer of 2018. Photo PaintThisDesert
Installation view of Vincent Valdez: The City at the Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, 2018. Purchase through the generosity of Guillermo C. Nicolas and James C. Foster in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein, with additional support from Jeanne and Michael Klein and Ellen Susman in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein, 2017. © Vincent Valdez
Revisiting Vincent Valdez’s The City:
Critical Moments of Silence and Reflection
in Times of Distortion and Chaos
By ANDREA LEPAGE
Vincent Valdez’s “The City” has received a wide array of media coverage since its opening at the Blanton Museum of Art on July 17, 2018. In October 2016, I wrote a piece for PaintThisDesert when "The City" was on view at the David Shelton Gallery in Houston, Texas. Since then, the Blanton Museum of Art (UT Austin) purchased Valdez’s 30-foot-long painting depicting fourteen members of the Ku Klux Klan who stand in as allegorical representations of a longstanding and prevailing system of white supremacy in the United States. The hooded baby—cradled in a mother’s arms—leaves the viewer with the uncomfortable reminder that hate is transmitted seamlessly from one generation to the next.
The intimidating hooded figures loom larger-than-life over the viewer and nearly obscure the distant gleaming city from which the composition takes its name. I pointed out in an essay written for the Blanton Museum’s gallery guide that Valdez’s painting calls for a visual comparison between overt and easily recognizable forms of racism (the Klan) and more covert and hidden forms (the city plan).
Valdez’s inscription, “For PG & GSH,” located in the lower right corner acknowledges the prevalence of both manifestations. In paying homage to Philip Guston’s 1969 “City Limits” and Gil Scott-Heron’s 1980 visceral rendition of The Klan, Valdez inserts himself into a multi-generational artistic lineage alongside a painter and a musician who also opposed the Klan and their ideology.
Vincent Valdez in his studio, 2016. © Michael Stravato
“I hold very firm in my belief today that art and artists can still play a social role and that art can provide very crucial, critical moments of silence and reflection during moments of immense distortion and chaos.” - Vincent Valdez
When the viewer confronts Valdez’s monumental painting, the eye first settles and lingers on the Klan members, infamous for their systematic and deadly targeting of mainly African American communities but also Latinos, Catholics, Jewish people, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community. Valdez discussed the disjunction between the beauty of their rendering and the horror of the Klan’s actions with journalist Maria Hinojosa of NPR’s “Latino USA” on the opening night at the Blanton Museum of Art. “Full blown raw reality is supposed to hit you. I lure you in with that beauty and I keep you there just enough so that you aren’t distracted within two seconds and back on your cell phone,” Valdez said. “If I can keep your attention, draw you in and keep you there, then that’s when the power of art really starts to unfold because you start to think critically.”
Should attention shift to a cell phone, viewers will be met with a disconcerting reflection of themselves in the image of a Klansman who casually checks his phone.
Close looking through the peaked hoods brings into high relief the significance of the gridded city in the background. Like the Klan members whose images encapsulate many forms of overt racism, the portrait of the city in the distance also assumes an allegorical role in the painting. City designs throughout the country play a key part in the systematic disenfranchisement of communities of color and immigrants.
In discussing the point with Hinojosa, Valdez targeted a few of the many elements that are part of a whole system that disadvantages communities of color. County jails, high-density housing projects, and liquor stores are disproportionately placed in low income neighborhoods. Access to high-quality educational and health resources, on the other hand, are largely absent from the same communities.
Underscoring the invisibility of some parts of the larger system of disenfranchisement, Valdez questioned, “Who gets trees and parks and playgrounds? Who gets access to these things?” His question conjures the image of the toddler whose pointing gesture seems to recruit the viewer to participate in a lifestyle that will ultimately support his ability to thrive.
The Blanton Museum of Art also purchased the pendant piece, “The City II” (2016), which features a desolate dumping ground populated by abandoned mattresses, furniture, and television sets. “The City II” has received significantly less attention than its more jarring companion piece, yet, it is crucial in understanding a key theme that unites the multi-panel installation: American consumerism directly supports the maintenance of white supremacy.
The iPhone, baby Nikes, special edition Budweiser beer can, and late model Chevrolet serve to locate the painting in the present. But these details set alongside the cast off possessions piled high in “The City II” also remind the viewer that the American drive to consume exacerbates and maintains vast racial and economic divides. “For far too long it’s been too easy for America to avoid the conversation about racism and how it is so embedded in our American DNA and our way of life,” Valdez said.
Valdez began painting “The City” in 2015, during Barack Obama’s presidency. Now viewed in the context of the current administration, we might ask whether “The City” themes resonate more with today’s audience. By no means are individual or structural racism new to this nation. Nonetheless, discussions about white supremacy, structural racism, and xenophobia have reentered our conversations with alarming normalcy since the November 2016 election.
If Valdez’s “The City” resonates more today in the midst of tweetstorms, inhumane immigrant child detainments, and continued killings of unarmed black men and women, it is because now, more than ever, we require critical moments of silence and reflection in times of political distortion and chaos.
Vincent Valdez, The City I, 2015–16 (detail). Oil on canvas, 74 x 360 in. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the generosity of Guillermo C. Nicolas and James C. Foster in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein, with additional support from Jeanne and Michael Klein and Ellen Susman in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein, 2017. © Vincent Valdez. Photo by Peter Molick.
Vincent Valdez’s “The City” can be seen at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, through October 28, 2018.
Andrea Lepage is associate professor of art history at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. As a scholar of Latino/a and Chicano/a visual culture coming out of the west, Lepage explores contemporary art as a form of social practice. Her many published writings include the essay “Reconstructing the Curriculum at El Taller Siqueiros, c. 1977: Judith Baca’s ‘Intensive Course in Mural Painting in Cuernavaca’ ” in “BACA: Art, Collaboration and Mural Making” (Angel City Press, 2017).
College of Southern Nevada Fine Arts Gallery host visiting artist Shona Macdonald.
FIELD NOTES: Shona Macdonald “Overcast” at College of Southern Nevada Fine Arts Gallery opened July 13. From her paintings you will be taking a walk with her and see shallow water found along a path. Sometimes you will see a calm stillness briefly interrupted by the touch of a breeze.
Macdonald’s “Sky on Ground” series of small works and larger pieces are source by images she captured on walks with her camera. Her puddles on the earth are a painted representation that guide you to seeing uneventful objects in the reflection, an upside-down realism of a landscape detail that exists just beyond the canvas. In some you see powerlines from light poles made with brisk wavy delicate lines, a capture of motion caused by a breeze that taps the surface of water; movement in the still-life of still water.
As intended by the artist, the works are prompted by romantic landscape painters like Caspar David Friedrich, who used painting to connect a spiritual read of the natural world.
In some of Macdonald’s work you see leaves laying near leftover water, a spot of fall color framed by muted blue and greys, or earthy texture of dirt road graded for travel. If these works are prompted by traditions of European landscape paintings, the leaves, in all their realism, also has you think of art historian Paul Johnson’s reference to Aelbert Cuyp’s use of cattle in works like “A Herdsman with Five Cows by a River.” Cuyp’s bovine show calmness near a body of water and adds atmosphere. Macdonald’s leaves that fell from an unseen tree do the same in her work. And her use of image next to, or in a body of water to set a mood shifts away from provoking a sense of awe with distant observation. She uses details of a presumed landscape to magnify intimacy with a feeling of displacement.
“Sky on Ground” is a pervasive series of contemporary paintings that are pensive observation that make a transition onto canvas to share a mood in all the works that uses melancholy as a subject. That gives weighted meaning to the title “Overcast.”
Shona Macdonald will speak at the College of Southern Nevada Fine Arts Gallery on Thursday, September 6, at 4 p.m. “Overcast” closes September 8.
Story and photos by G. JAMES DAICHENDT
In 2002, Israel approved the construction of the most infamous wall in the world: the Israeli West Bank Barrier. The State of Israel intends for it to serve as a security blockade against terrorist attacks. The Palestinians on the other side of the wall see it in a negative light. To those who live in the West Bank the wall has become an unfortunate tool that has created a form of racial segregation that cuts off wages, social services, farmland, and schools from those who live there. While the towns along the wall have limited violence, the wall has also blighted many Palestinian villages.
This summer I had the opportunity to cross the security checkpoint from Israel into the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, where the street artist Banksy has established an installation and hotel, appropriately named the Walled Off Hotel (humorously sounding like the renowned and luxurious Waldorf Hotel). The fully functioning hotel and art gallery claims to have the worst view in the world; that serves as a smart critique of Middle Eastern politics.
Banksy has long been interested in the West Bank Barrier, having painted several large pieces on it over the years. His views are quite obvious, stating that the wall "essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison.” To bring attention to this frustrating circumstance, Banksy’s hotel is both a commercial venture and a critique, adequately capturing the dilemma the artist often falls into as a populist who makes accessible imagery yet strives for larger ideals. Encouraging tourists to cross the checkpoint, the hotel leverages the artist’s popularity to draw visitors to Palestine, something they may be frightened to do if they watch western news.
The hotel opened its doors during the winter of 2017 directly opposite a section of the wall that predated it by 15 years. The dirt road is now paved, and this small section of street appears to have been slightly upgraded because of the venture. These minor improvements may be considered both negative and positive changes since many locals are obviously not fans of the wall and would prefer to not normalize it.
The nine-room hotel houses an art gallery featuring Palestinian artists, a gift shop that sells Banksy-approved pieces (some painted by local artists), and a graffiti shop that hosts workshops so visitors can paint the wall. However, there is a lot of sadness in this part of Palestine and such a spectacle seems odd and insensitive. This juxtaposition is not lost in the design; you can even spend the night in the hotel bunker rooms that can be reserved for a discounted price.
There is reverence and apprehension for the hotel by locals. Cake$, a Palestinian street artist, says the “Banksy Hotel is like big white male (instead of whale) as Greyson Perry told once about art market.” It’s a huge force and one that clearly attracts a number of international artists, including a recent visit by Lush Sux, who painted several huge pieces around the area of the hotel (and a few for the gift shop).
Art for The Walled Off Hotel. Click on photo to enlarge.
The creations and artwork within the hotel are really what appeal to Banksy fans. The lobby functions as a giant installation with several small pieces curated around the space.
Visual overload is an understatement; there is a lot to take in. Two bowls placed next to one another feature fish that want to kiss but are held back by their isolated locations. Another three-dimension installation features a faux cat attempting to capture a bird locked in a cage, while a painting opposite the gift shop depicts young children climbing over St. Peter’s gates to gain entry into heaven.
Notice the theme? The “on-the-nose” messaging is part of the frustration with Banksy but it’s also why he’s universally understood and fun to engage with.
As one peers through the windows of the hotel, the contrast of the ironically luxurious interior with the gray slabs of concrete that make up the wall just outside is stunning. The walls feel insurmountable and the sections continue in an unending rhythm down the street and out of sight. The lookout/sniper towers that reach up higher in particular areas reinforce a trapped feeling, much like if you were to fall into a well and several enemies watched you from the top to ensure you could not escape. Yet there is an escapist mentality inside the hotel and it’s very easy to forget where you are.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has layers of history, and while this wall was intended to prevent attacks, it had dreadful effects on several communities. Cake$ reminded me that, “Painting the wall in Bethlehem is like overpainting the horizon.” The Walled Off Hotel is so much more than a painting on a wall; it’s a political statement that encourages people to cross the border, support local artists, and stands as a symbol of protest, while simultaneously functioning as a profitable business that is booked solid, much like Banksy himself.
G. James Daichendt is Dean of the Colleges and Professor of Art History at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He is the author of 'Kenny Scharf: In Absence of Myth, Shepard Fairey: Artist/Professional/Vandal" and "The Urban Canvas: Street Around the World."
Murals on the West Bank barrier commenting on Middle Eastern politics. Click on photo to enlarge.
ABOVE: Gig Depio
“Through the Muddy”
2017-18 480” x 144”
Oil on Canvas
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