Stephen Hendee 'Monument to the Simulacrum' Photo: Paint This Desert
There are two seasons in Las Vegas: Day and night. Other than gusty winds or the rare thunderstorm that toss rocks out of rural washes into suburban streets, the weather is light or no light with widely scattered majestic dusks and dawns. That’s the whisper I’m hearing from Las Vegas sculpture that integrates light with form to make a reflective study of the urban desert.
Murals and other public art sit in heated bleakness during the day. Most are not lit, so into the night they go hidden in the dark. Sometimes there’s enough accidental lighting to show a mural is there, or a piece can be seen by leftover lighting if the mural is squatting where an ad used to be. And some of the older sculptures have small spotlights focused on them, up from the ground, but that seems to be the city wanting to make the art visible so drunk drivers can swerve away in time, not to add to the meaning of the art.
This adds to the downtown lab of public art (with an entry from UNLV) as a portfolio of light and form that emulate how the city waits to dress up for the evening. In time we could see someone take the idea and find ways light can be part of a mural, or maybe a local movement of temporary “street light art” in public space that uses the same kinetic frenzy as neon signs can be created. For now, these examples of illumination used as brush strokes challenges the notion that Las Vegas contemporary art will always be upstaged by the affluent bling-ism of downtown and The Strip.
'Monument to the Simulacrum' (2007): Stephen Hendee's work at the 5th St School is an homage to Jean Baudrillard, the French theorist who clarified Las Vegas duplication and simulation for cultural scholars, and who passed away the year the sculpture was completed. The mountain is a connection to natural resources and the light plays off the asymmetric continental collision.
Photo: Paint This Desert
City of Las Vegas City Hall: The facade of City Hall wasn't funded as a public art project, so it's interesting to consider how it works as an installation. Near the hyperkinetic lights of Fremont Street Experience, the LED cascade down City Hall like falling water and presented as the city's way to be part of the "Heritage of Light." Nearby, mid-century office buildings have been also dressed with light, adding even more to that heritage.
Photo: Paint This Desert
'Pipe Dream: Fanfare for the Common Man' (2012): For Symphony Park, Tim Bavington's sculpture replaced early plans for a mural. Instead, he proposed this, his first major sculptural work that translates music into form, specifically “Fanfare for the Common Man." At eighty-six feet long and twenty-seven feet tall, “Pipe Dreams” is bright and bold. Compared to the Las Vegas Strip this stunning work comes off as subtle, but that is a measurement of expectations fulfilled, yet not compromising the duties of site-specific fine art.
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.