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
Above: "Blue Angel: Between Heaven and Earth" at The Neon Museum's Ne10studio.