Who is Peter Lik?
It irks him a little that you have to ask. Because by one measure — money — Mr. Lik may well be the most successful fine-art photographer who ever lived. He has sold $440 million worth of prints, according to his chief financial officer, in 15 galleries in the United States that he owns and that sell his work. The images are mostly panoramic shots of trees, sky, lakes, deserts and blue water in supersaturated colors. Generally speaking, his buyers are not people who acquire the art of Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman.
THINK AND RINK: Near downtown Las Vegas, where some mid-century homes are converted for commercial use, there was a Friday night contemporary art connection with different vibes. The MFA Fine Art Auction at MCQ Fine Art wore a dignified air of gallery chat and wine to encourage silent bidding at the annual fundraising. Down the street was "ROLL," a Contemporary Arts Center pop-up exhibition that was a 1970s-era ruckus of art and PBRs responding to regional roller rink culture (and the first curated show by arts reporter Kristen Peterson). Throughout the night art locals were seen going clockwise, then counterclockwise, between the two venues.
OSCAR SEASON: Like last year, Los Angeles street artist Plastic Jesus piggybacked on Oscar hoopla to send an anti-drug message. His life-sized Oscar statue on hands and knees snorting coke on Hollywood Boulevard in the days leading up to the Academy Awards was fiberglass commentary on show business party culture. It had so much coverage, the artist had a wave of inquiries from PR firms begging to take him on as a client I CNN and many more.
R.I.P. Raul Rodriguez: He was 71 and known for being the most awarded designer of over 500 floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade, his first as a contest winner in 1960 as a high school student. He also designed the brash pink neon facade of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas and the 22-story clown that front’s the Circus Circus hotel and casino in Reno. “Mr. Rodriguez was classically trained in drawing and painting, but when it came to pageantry he might just as well have been inspired by Oscar Wilde’s credo that nothing succeeds like excess,” wrote The New York Times.
TRIBE: In Phoenix , Arizona, Dwayne Manuel is a recent UA MFA grad and a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, one of the four federally recognized O’odham tribes. Manuel's art has been getting attention for the way it brings together “ traditional imagery with more contemporary ideas.” You can see graffiti influences reinterpreting the weave from O’odham baskets in a Nike line called Desert Journey. Tucson I Arizona Daily Star
WATER AND LIGHT: Scottsdale Arizona is making good use of water, light, and art with Canal Convergence. Randy Walker writes about his part of the project that dictates "our selection of color and work intuitively, paying close attention to the way the colors interacted with each other once in the sunlight. It would be an orchestrated process of managing materials, people, and time." His Canal Convergence installation is titled Spring Crossing:
FEAR OF BILLBOARDS: Daniel R. Small's New Mexico installation on billboards curated by LAND, mentioned at the previous INK AND LINK, have made locals skittish. The indecipherable glyphs were accused of being the work of terrorists or Satanic messages. More at Hyperallergic.
BIG TICKET ITEM: On a few days in May, the Roden Crater, the unfinished land art by James Turrell, will be the destination for “serious patrons of the arts,” according to an invitation reported by ArtNews. The cost is a $5,000 donation to Turrell’s nonprofit organization that supports the project. Details on other big fees at ArtNews.
PRIMITIVE PEEK-A-BOO: Archaeologists discovered a 1,250-year-old mural in the ancient city of Xultun, near Guatemala. The painting has an attendant behind a king, possibly to hold up his headdress. Besides finding a new evidence of civilization, scholars are also excited to see an early version of 'a photobomb.' Live Science.
BUSY STREETS IN ARIZONA: Phoenix New Times' covers their street art well and recently wrote about "The Painted Desert" by Rebecca Green that "features a bevy of brightly colored critters from javelina to desert tortoise." She's an artist who often returns to the area to paint. So does El Mac, who in January collaborated with Pablo Luna, and Mando Rascón for a piece that was almost cancelled because it was "too ethnic."
PETER LIK: “I’m the world’s most famous photographer, most sought-after photographer, most awarded photographer,” said the Las Vegas photographer in a long Sunday New York Times article. His “Phantom," an image of a swirl of dust lit by focused sun in an Arizona canyon, is the one purchased for record $6.5 million.
The profile is in the business section.
Detail of mural on wall of Pepe's Tacos facing Boulder Highway, near Flamingo. Below, artist Fernando Reyes.
While the walls of Las Vegas neighborhoods are blank of Mexican-themed murals, you can still find some. They are working hard in the kitchens of Southern Nevada.
Right away a mural stalker will notice how stories don’t rise from the local Latino enclaves. Instead, painted images filter out of restaurants and taco shops with only an aroma of a larger legacy, and have no scent of social message or advocacy. They are eatery décor and created with a cultural mandate that murals are supposed to be up, even of they lean toward being more folk art than public art. Usually are the typical scenes of quiet villages and landscapes, or as seen in grocery stores with Latino products, about a good harvest and prepping for large meals.
If you look hard enough you can find some touches of storytelling. At one spot, a restaurant owner peeks out from a doorway while his mother and father stand in the street of a village. A taco stand on the road that takes you to Nellis Air Force Base has a mural on the parking lot wall showing the local mountain range under a swath of blue that, on most days, matches the big sky. Painted on the mural are jets in a flyover.
Like murals painted inside casinos, most are unsigned. It was by chance I met two artists who worked on pices. Earlier last year I drove past one small restaurant and from Boulder Highway I saw someone painting on the wall, so I stopped. The artist was Fernando Reyes, a twenty-something muralist who manages to pull out detail from that textured stucco that fights a brush.
A few months ago I met artist Juan D. Varela at an opening and the conversation swung to murals. I learned he was the one who painted a series inside the very restaurant that had me first wonder if the only Latino murals I would find would be when I was at a table reading a menu.
That’s how the Mexican mural tradition adapted in a region that's in the center of the Latino cores of Colorado, Arizona, and Southern California, where barrio walls are banners that identify community. It may be easy to just glance at these works since they were not painted to be an interpretation of public art, or how these modest pieces are just there to make space as authentic as recipes. If you listen closely, they are café owners and artists making a quiet statement that a cultural marker of murals won’t surrender easily.
Juan D. Varela at Dona Maria Tamales Restaurant in downtown Las Vegas.
Mariachis and folk dancers at El Torito in Henderson, Nevada.
A customer finds shade next to a mural at Charleston and Fremont.
Inside Lindo Michoacan.
Vast mountains and sky at Ricos Tacos Number 8.
Las Vegas street artist Juan Muniz sent out this to honor "the amazing Keith Haring. 25 years ago today we lost a great one. Much respect, sir."
Haring's mix of activism with art was timely, as well as warnings to heed, even 25 years later.
In “The Political Line,” which closes today at San Francisco's de Young, there is a piece about technology suppressing individuality in an Untitled work from 1983. The figure's brain "has been replaced by a computer, also seem oddly prescient of today’s tech-obsessed existence, said his sister, Kristen Haring, to NBC in 2014.
Collection of articles via de Young.
From Thea Quiray Tagle at Hyperallergic:
I didn’t avoid teaching Haring because I didn’t know about him; rather, I think I had a kind of Haring fatigue borne of oversaturation. I was born in New York in 1982, the year that Keith Haring had his first solo show at Tony Shafrazi’s gallery. His work was all over New York in the 1980s and early ’90s; the murals, subway sketches, and mass-produced items (Swatch watches, T-shirts, magnets) were so much a part of the city that it was easy to overlook them as a naturalized piece of the very unnatural urban landscape. Over the years, I forgot what his work stood for, if I ever really understood it then. His doodles as I remember them looked happy, full of life, and just too cheery. As works of protest art, they felt wrong, not nearly angry enough compared to ACT UP’s public die-ins in front of the White House and the FDA.
But to see Haring’s work anew at the de Young reminded me of two things: First, that embracing beauty and joy can be a radical act of queer protest, a claiming of one’s worthiness of surviving at a time when the world was telling you that you deserved to die. Second, that his output was far more troubling than the more ubiquitous images would suggest, especially when framed in their appropriate social justice context, as curators Julian Cox and Dieter Buchhart have done here.
From NYTimes Obit dated 2.17.1990:
From these beginnings emerged a style of illustration that became known throughout the world and a mode of distribution that largely circumvented the traditional art gallery system. Mr. Haring said he was committed to being accessible. Not only were his images widely considered irresistible and the morality tales they told easy to comprehend, but his work, at least in the beginning, was also easy to own.
From Haring Himself: Keith Haring Journals