On the south end of the Arts District, the spray-painted walls is the region's contribution to graffiti culture thats rooted in 1980's wildstyle, where abstraction of typography is the iconic message and the content is subtext to the form.
It’s a different aesthetic territory than the commissioned street art in the Downtown Project footprint from the Life Is Beautiful Festival. Those murals are faith healers testifying for city revival.
These works are on the roads leading into the 18b Las Vegas Arts District, where the grids between The Strip and the old city show an uneasy transition of angles. It’s fitting that’s where graffiti makes a rocky push to be treated as a legitimate art form that thrives in galleries, while being mumbled about by civic authorities.
The works by locals and the guest artists sometimes make a visual reference to the region. In the day’s light the colors bounce off the walls in bright hues of greens, blues and yellows, then move into a softer glow when the sun sets, before they hide at night. In the better works, images connect to the heated space of alleys, or walls fronting large empty parcels. You can spot symbols of gaming, fragmented type left behind by old signage, or the towering Stratosphere that hovers like a sundial of time and space.
Graffiti art aficionados will like how some of the works are semi-permanent, mixed with walls that keep changing out. That fulfills the primal expression to mark space as a pervasive declaration of existence, a practice that decorates environment as a dare against convention. It’s not a coincidence that this murals are neighbors to bail bondsmen, temporary saviors of urban despair. It also has a kinship with the tattoo parlors in the area, since graffiti is also based on the will to make blank space inventive.
Above: Krystal Ramirez “I Want to See More Brown Bodies” from 2017 will be reassembled at UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art in Spring 2018.