“Kryptos 83.798” at the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery. Photo Ed Fuentes
Pasha Rafat: While the Donna Beam Gallery at UNLV is booked solid for the semester, Pasha Rafat slipped in “Kryptos 83.798” during the first few weeks of Fall 2017. Rafat, a College of Fine Arts faculty member, shows how a professor is once and always a student. His light-concentrated works are influenced by Western artists from the Sixties and Seventies, all of whom were captivated by the physical phenomena of light functioning in space and atmosphere. The shapes of the main work do not create an eerie glow that alter physical reality, as often seen with light-based works, but instead has parcels of neon adapting to the room through grids and squares.
According to Rafat, those neon parcels refer to his interest in Russian Constructivists’ view of material architecture.Yet, they represent more than a mere nod to demigod Constructivists. Pasha’s works are also a direct reference to California light and space artists with whom Rafat has engaged and introduced to the region through UNLV’s Fall Lecture Series. In 2015, Robert Irwin was a guest of the series, a program overseen by Rafat. In 2014, Doug Wheeler, another light and space pioneer, was a guest for the same series., Additionally, Rafat’s works also respond to Carl Andre, one of Minimalism’s founders, whose works included a series of low-to-the-ground sculpture. Here, Rafat uses that method to have the floor become a landscape of light.
The main neon sculpture emits a flickering of light that gives visual movement to the piece. It originates in the corner and consumes half of the gallery space, sectioned in varied sizes to hint at distance. The perspective leaks forth like a shoreline of light in a darkened room, like a cover of night, that tolerates the space’s vertical support beam in the middle of the gallery. Tape is on the ground to keep the curious away, but if a viewer infiltrated the low-impact border they would be cheated of seeing this as an aloof, but intimate, presentation. As his research lies not only with art in public space and light, but also sound, this neon landscape, sprawling on the ground like a horizontal light garden, also emits the low buzz of neon, an artifact of sound, that is soft white noise. If the light and sound Minimalist paradigm is that abstract work can have clean command of space, then “Kryptos (83.798)” succeeds.
Above: Stephen Hendee created sculpture for the celebration of 30 years of public art programming in the City of Las Vegas.