There is a new mural in the city.
It is at the West Las Vegas Cultural Center, a commission that began when police, staff from the center, and the city's cultural heads of state wondered if art would help curb negative activity. They went to the Arts Commission for the connections and funding.
Together they picked the right artist: Andre Wilmore, also known as Dray, whose prolific portfolio of murals and gallery work bounce back and forth from figurative, pop-art, ethnic art, and graffiti. An open call for muralists was made in September, 2017, and Dray was awarded the commission and began working on it in March, 2018. The mural, titled "Building a Better Future", was unveiled on May 11.
Dray is often known for an earth-tone palette and a style that, as Danielle Kelly once wrote, “suggests the influence of Picasso and Braque.” This new mural hits multiple layers of cubism beyond Pablo Picasso (1881-1983) and George Braque (1882-1963). It also carries the cubist manners of Spanish painter Juan Gris (1887-1927), who brought in graphic composition to the form. Like Gris, Dray pulls back the visual chaos without sacrificing movement or shape by tempering the complicated collage of cubism perspectives. That allows the mural to be playful by committing geometric shapes in the portraits and background. It gives the work a graphic simplicity up close, or when walking up to it from the parking lot.
A sense of play is needed for the long-standing cultural and recreation site that serves the West Las Vegas neighborhood. Set on the long wall that extends the depth of the park, the mural is a centerpiece that reaches the middle of a long horizontal plane of cement block wall with synchronous perspectives divided by thrusts of color to give it an urban cadence.
The mural also speaks to other art movements. At the beginning there is a figure painted with a hint of surrealism that breaks the flow of curves and angles. This is not out of context in the work informed by 20th century cubist masters. Painter Wifredo Lam (1902–1982) introduced a multicultural blend of Cuban, African and European forms that synchronized Cubism with the Surrealists.
At the other end of the mural there is an image meant to be a powerful break from the mural’s makeup, an urgent call for the original mission of the piece. Two hands are bathed in red and blue light - not unlike rival gang colors - to show clenched unity.
Influences aside, “Building a Better Future” is all Dray, all day. This public art does its civic chore not only by serving as a backdrop for the park, but also fulfills an underused duty of introducing references of art history, including links to ethnic ties, to young viewers. The mural’s title has additional meaning, too: a suggestion of how to think about the wall’s future. The wall has older murals that lead up to the new piece, which ends at a near halfway mark of the concrete wall. For now, the rest of the cement bricks are empty. Someday it could be completely covered
“Building A Better Future”
West Las Vegas Cultural Center
947 W Lake Mead Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89106
HOCKEY FEVER: Las Vegas sculpture and showgirls add to the spirit of sport. Game 5 between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets is Sunday at Noon.
SPEAKING OF PHOTOS: Photographer Mikayla Whitmore shot an ESPN photo essay that documented Vegas puck fans. The story headline, “Sorry Detroit, Las Vegas is the new Hockeytown,” caused a stir. Some in Detroit even took umbrage, even though at that level of editorial decision-making, headlines are not written by the reporter or photographer. . . Still: Whitmore stood by it, and said so on KNPR. "I know they have 50 plus years on us, but we're coming out of the gate swinging," she said. "And if they think they can do it better, prove it."
MORE HOCKEY TRASH-TALK: Enjoy the last few days (or day) of the Twitter throw-down between Las Vegas-Clark County Library District and the Winnipeg Public Library. They stack book titles to diss each other's team. It has become an anti-love fest between the two new rival towns . . . They Started It: Winnipeg kicked the shins of other cities with a civilized tone since the playoffs began. "Things usually escalate as the series unfolds, but Las Vegas Clark-Country Library's first tweet — a picture of a book titled 'Hockey: How it Works' — was rather rude," reported CBC News. Monique Woroniak, the Canadian librarian behind the Tweets, was pleased. "We were happy that they went a little less polite right away because it's actually easier," said Woroniak to CBC, adding she "prefers to drop the gloves and pleasantries right off the hop." . . . Our Spokesperson: The Las Vegas smack-talker is Camille Cannon, who was recently featured on FOX 5. She's got game.
RECALLING RIVALRIES: High-brow museums went low during recent Super Bowls. Using the hashtag #MuseumBowl the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Artstraded barbs in 2018. Boston also challenged the High Museum of Art in 2017, throwing down some alternative art history with works from their collections. . . . Not to be an instigator . . .but: If there is a Game 6 or 7, the Barrick Museum of Art's rival could be the University of Winnipeg gallery.
HOCKEY TOON TOWN: Juan Muniz, known for his recurring image of a child in bunny PJs, is getting attention for his cartoon take on Chance, the mascot of the Golden Knights. The visual comment on playoff victories was noticed by the team and Muniz's work had a cameo on the T-Mobile Arena video board. . . By The Way: It behooves me to remind the Golden Knights that the artist is also a muralist-for-hire. . . Add: Muniz posts he will painting live at DeRubeis Fine Art (inside Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood) from 1 to 5 p.m. on June 2.
BREAK-AWAY LINKS: Matthew Couper work was selected for the 65th Blake Prize Exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Art Centre in Australia. It runs through July 1, 2018. . . .Couper sends word and congratulations to Tina Havelock Stevens who won the Blake Prize with her work "Giant Rock," an interdisciplinary piece filmed in the Mojave Desert. . . MORE: Couper is also being featured at the Nevada Arts Council’sOXS Gallery in Carson City through July 13.
UNLV PART 1: “Nowadays, even the artist’s sincere need for personal expression seems so 20th century. How then, as a member of the 2018 UNLV Bachelor of Fine Arts cohort, do you make meaningful art? The six young artists exhibiting in the BFA Studio Art 2018 exhibition at Donna Beam Gallery suggest you do it with courage, know-how and … materials,” wrote Dawn-Michelle Baude for L.V. Weekly. UNLV PART 2: UNLV's welcome mat for the new Chair of Art, Marcus Civin, reached Artforum. UNLV PART 3: Laura Brennan, the final UNLV MFA Candidate (and serious hockey fan) announced her tintype, 'Silver Manipulation III," has been selected for The Image Flow's 3rd Annual Alternative Photography Juried Exhibition. It runs from July 14 through September 7 in Mill Valley, California . . . "Transience," Brennan's thesis exhibition, will have a reception on June 15.
CSN: You can support other young art colleagues by attending the CSN Coyotes Art Department 2018 Juried Student Exhibition It runs through June 23 in the Fine Arts Gallery and the Artspace Gallery.
REMINDER: Andrew Schoultz's new installation "In Process: Every Movement Counts"opens June 2 at The Barrick. Previously: My take on the Schoultz skatepark design at Winchester. Added note: T he top banner at the ABOUT page has a quick clip of the park in action.
ALMOST BACK: Prolific and missed arts reporter, Kristen Peterson, who has taken up long form creative non-fiction, boots up her own website: TheBreadLoaf Motel.com
Photo: James Stanford.
MORE BREAK-AWAY LINKS: “Blue Angel: Between Heaven and Earth" opens May 24 from 5 - 7 p.m. at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio. The exhibition will have the Blue Angel sign sculpture "reemerge for this temporary exhibition before undergoing restoration." . . . Lights: Fashion Show Las Vegas' “commitment to public art” comes with an light art installation, "Global Rainbow," by American artist Yvette Mattern. It can be seen from dusk to dawn for a limited-time, says the press release. . . . Another Sign: I am not sure if I am ready to call this public art, but a new welcome sign for downtown Las Vegas is coming.
Desert Inn at Boulder Highway. Photo: PtD
Las Vegas has ghosts in its roads. Hacienda, Sahara, Desert Inn, Sands, Riviera are streets that still bear the names of places that built the town’s reputation and notoriety. The signs are now just echoes and fragments of what was once here. . .public art memorials for those who frequented Las Vegas or worked at the hotels and casinos. They carry some meaning for anyone with a fascination of the retro history of Las Vegas. The roads give scale and position to where the landmarks that had influence and political clout were, giving context to old postcards and rumors.
After these historically significant casinos descended from the tourism economy of new Las Vegas, or once they were unable to withstand the reputation of new investors, these Mid-century gaming temples were stripped from the Strip, often in spectacular implosions, then methodically pieced apart as assets were sold off. Whatever was left over was trashed as rubble.
Nevertheless, the names still stand as part of the Las Vegas language. Desert Inn Road, Sahara Avenue, and Hacienda Avenue are shortcuts for day-to-day living now, not a long desert driveway to a destination that had its own celebrity as a connector to a casino. They are reduced from headliner to background player, service worker instead of pit boss.
Flamingo and Tropicana are still long roads anchored by namesakes, and you see how they function as wayfinders to resorts when you drive along Boulder Highway. Sands Avenue hasn’t been anchored by the Sands Hotel and Casino since 1996, but the short footprint is a dutiful servant to the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Riviera Blvd was short and functional, then it lost its muse. Originally named after the hotel and casino that opened in April, 1955, Riviera Boulevard was changed to Elvis Presley Way after ‘the Riv’ closed in 2015. Sadly, the name change has the road be a celebrity impersonator.
For the roads that are still here, the street signs are accidental modernist memorials in a city that internalizes industry history, a form of archeological public art based on public memory. They don’t mark place. They do mark time.
West Hacienda Avenue west of the Strip: Photo by PtD
Above: "Blue Angel: Between Heaven and Earth" at The Neon Museum's Ne10studio.