Sunday, November 16, 2014

Visual Art Is Vibrant at Life Is Beautiful Festival 2014


"Love is Power. Power is Life. Life is Beautiful." The words are scrawled in red, encircling a cut out of a large, purple cactus flower. Pasted to the wall, the flower is surrounded by hundreds of other natural desert elements, with hand-written messages. For this year's Life is Beautiful festival, my proposal submitted to curator Patrick Duffy envisioned a collage installation created by the festival visitors themselves, slowly growing over the three days of the festival.
Attendance numbers were up for Las Vegas' second Life is Beautiful festival held during the last of the warm weather in late October. The focus on visual arts was again strong, with the exhibition venue moving to the previously shuttered Western Hotel, sharing space with the guest speakers in the Learning component. The Street Art Program, again curated by Charlotte Dutoit, brought new works to buildings in downtown Las Vegas. With many mural works from the first festival in 2013 still in existence, the face of downtown has changed dramatically.
I've put together a slideshow with Huffington Post, offering a tour of both temporary and permanent visual art features of the 2014 festival. I can't promise that it's fully comprehensive, but it gives a taste of the visual smörgåsbord available to festival-goers taking time out from the multitude of aural offerings. The first images were taken the evening before the festival opened, when some of the visiting street artists were putting the finishing touches on their works. For further information on artists, see the Life is Beautiful line-up.
The best festivals are uplifting, creating a powerful positive energy that lives on after the festival is over. In the downtown center of a city where stark reminders of the hard-hitting recent recession are still evident, the Life is Beautiful festival achieved that for me. As one of my collage participants wrote, quoting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, "Destruction leads to a very rough road but it also breeds creation."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jevijoe Vitug and the the Sarimanok Flamingo

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Jevijoe Vitug has embraced the dualities inherent in working as a Las Vegas artist originating from the Philippines. A blend of Early Asian and Contemporary Western styles is evident in his show “Wasteland/Oasis” at 5th Wall Gallery in the Emergency Arts complex. In the talk he gave at the opening reception, he listed convergence, confluence and coexistence as themes that flow through his work and which he sees reflected in the city itself.
            Inspired by the casino culture’s embrace of iconic architecture and exotic creatures from around the world, Vitug has created his own seductive visual fusions. The pink flamingo features in the large-scale triptych, combined with elements of the multi-colored Sarimanok, a bird/man featured in legends from the island of Mindanao, in the Philippines.
            Vitug described the culture shock he experienced when moving from a group of islands with a conservative Catholic culture to the desert city of Las Vegas, where water is a precious commodity and giant billboards promote sex as commodity. The Wasteland/Oasis series of works feature converging streams of water suggesting the merging of cultures flowing around iconic Las Vegas landmarks such as the Strip roller coasters, neon symbols and phallic towers.
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            However, behind these vibrant juxtapositions are areas of ruin. Vitug stated “Nothing is permanent, no matter how powerful. We can intellectualize it, but we cannot control it”.
 
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Exhibition runs through December 7th 2013.

Jevijoe Vitug is a Philippine-born Las Vegas based artist whose work ranges from painting, performance and community-based projects often addresses notions of survival and environmental and economic concerns. Recently, he founded Re:Source Art and Development (RAD), an art initiative dedicated to community collaboration, research and development of locally-based resources.

            Vitug received his BFA in Painting (cum laude) from St. Scholastica’s College Manila, Philippines and attended graduate school at San Francisco Art Institute’s MFA New Genres program in 2008. His solo exhibitions include “Casino Capital” at Momas and Dadas New Genres Project House (2013), “How To’s” at Winchester Cultural Center (2012), “Before/After: Nuclear Weapons Testing Legacy” at 5th Wall Gallery (2012), “The Truns” at Manila Contemporary, Philippines (2011), “Source of Living” at Pablo Galleries, Philippines (2010).

            He participated in various local and international group shows, such as “Traveling Miracle Show” at Reno Art Works, Reno (2013), “Parallel Lines” at Paul Nache, New Zealand (2013), Rainbow 7: London Biennale in Nevada at PUAH Gallery, Henderson, NV and The Contemporary Arts Center, Las Vegas, NV (2012), “Queer Manila” at Manila Contemporary, Philippines (2012), “Yet Another Tea Party” at Neant Bleu, Berlin, Germany (2011), Art in the Parking Space sponsored by LAXART, Los Angeles (2011), “Overflow” with David Medalla and Adam Nankervis at Space Gallery, Las Vegas (2011).“Let’s Build a Nation” at the Contemporary Arts Center Las Vegas (2010), “Warfield: Project Survival” at Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco (2009), “Art of How-to” Koret Educational Center, SFMOMA (2008), and the 21st Asian International Art Exhibition at Singapore Art Museum (2006). He was also awarded Nevada Arts Council’s Jackpot Grants in 2010 and 2012.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Happy Rocks to Bloody Heads


The first Llyn Foulkes work I saw was one of the 'blood head' works at Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica a few years ago and it left a lasting impression.  As I discovered more of his work, I could see that it is often dark, yet can also be humorous, and he certainly doesn't shy away from potentially contentious issues. This is an artist who takes a keen interest in his surroundings, both geographical and political, and incorporates critical social commentary into his paintings and mixed media works.
Money in the Bank, 1977
             The night of Foulkes' talk as part of the Visiting Artist Lecture Series at UNLV's Marjorie Barrick Museum, it had been raining heavily across the Las Vegas Valley and there were warnings of flash floods. However that didn't deter an enthusiastic audience keen to experience the fabled sharp wit of this celebrated artist who hadn't visited Las Vegas since 1965 when touring with his band. Foulkes didn't disappoint, engaging in friendly heckling with the audio visual operator who wasn't intuiting the image sequencing to his complete satisfaction, and berating an attendee in the front row who made the mistake of answering her unsilenced cellphone during his talk.
             He began by describing his first solo show at the influential FerusGallery in LA in 1961, and he credited the experience with this gallery as setting him on a firm footing for the rest of his career. Andy Warhol also had his first solo show at Ferus Gallery at a later date, and Foulkes believes that he influenced Warhol's cow wallpaper works, after Warhol saw a number of Foulke's cow paintings in his Ferus show.
Llyn Foulkes in front of an image of him playing The Machine
            While he was teaching at UCLA, Foulkes produced the 1969 Happy Rock show during a three-month holiday break. He described selling more paintings than he had ever sold previously and then changed tack altogether “because I realized if I kept on doing it I would lose my soul”. There was only one painting left at the end of the show – a portrait. He kept working on it, and it became the first of a completely different series of works – the ‘blood heads’, inspired by an autopsy he had witnessed.           
            His works often include emotionally charged objects that can invoke intense responses. Double Trouble, 1991, deals with issues of gun laws and abortion and contains an actual foetus. Foulkes recalled that when the purchasers of the work discovered the foetus was real, they wanted to return it but he wouldn’t accept it back, so it has been donated to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
            The sculpture That Great Arm of Art 1997, is formed from a dead possum that he found under his house, The Last Frontier, 1997-2005, contains a mummified cat and Dali and Me, 2006, contains cow’s teeth. Foulkes said he had been surprised to hear that someone had described Dali and Me as “the most horrific painting they had ever seen.” Salvador Dali was described as being the first artist who influenced Foulkes when he was young, prompting him to steal The Secret Life of Salvador Dali from his local library. 
Llyn Foulkes with audience members after the talk
            Although he has described his ‘flat paintings’ as being his best sellers, he has developed techniques to create the perception of depth in many of his works such as the ‘dimensional painting’ The Lost Frontier which incorporates objects that cast shadows and was worked and reworked over a period of eight years.
            He has also never abandoned his interest in music, constructing The Machine which features drums, percussion and old fashioned car and bicycle horns. He played a video of his rendition of "A Smoggy Day in Old LA", performed on The Machine and said that he is now concentrating on music videos. His closing statement was poignant:
"I'll be 79 in two months' time. I gotta' get the videos out....  I'm just a one-man band."

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Traveling Miracle Show Crosses the Great Divide

JK Russ is now a blogger for The Huffington Post and has written up The Traveling Miracle Show's road trip from Las Vegas to Reno. We stopped at a number of cultural attractions and small towns en route, including the hauntingly beautiful ghost town of Goldfield, NV, where Matthew Couper photographed me beside a pair of marooned subway entrances. S.B.

Here is an abridged write-up from the Huffington Post:
In April we took an adapted version of The Traveling Miracle Show on the road to Reno, Nevada -- 450 miles north from Las Vegas across the arid Mojave Desert. Although we were following in the hoof prints of the traveling medicine shows of old, we had the benefits of bitumen and a hired Dodge Caravan, allowing us to make the trip in a day.
Our aim was to explore the broader arts and culture of Nevada and to forge personal connections with other artists to help bridge the gap between Southern and Northern Nevada that stems from more than just geographical distance. Competition for steadily decreasing state funding is one of the issues causing division, but we viewed this as even more of a reason for artists and organizations to work together to share knowledge and resources in order to realize projects.
Our first stop was Goldwell Open Air Museum, adjacent to the ghost town of Rhyolite, where we enjoyed responding to the sculptural installations, including German artist Sofie Siegmann's mosaic sculpture Sit Here!. The history of this 15-acre sculpture park dates back to 1984 when Belgian artist Albert Szukalski created his Last Supper installation. Goldwell also offers an artist residency program in the Museum's nearby Red Barn Art Center.
We also visited the historic Oats Park Art Center in the town of Fallon, 60 miles east of Reno. The former school building, built in 1914 has been beautifully restored and now comprises three galleries, a lounge bar and 350-seat theater. There were also interesting works on display by Michael Sarich, Joan Arrizabalga and Patrick Zentz among others, from the private, non-profit Churchill Art Council's regional art collection.

Having navigated the 'Great Divide' between Southern and Northern Nevada, we arrived in Reno just as the sun was setting over the snow-capped mountains and the famous neon lights were blinking on.  We headed straight to Reno Art Works based in the industrial Dickerson Road area that has become a hub for creative enterprises. Founded by Aric Shapiro and Pan Pantoja -- two artists sharing a strong social conscience -- Reno Art Works hosts regular exhibitions, open studios and multi-disciplinary events. After a tour of the venue, we were back the next day to set up for the Reno version of The Traveling Miracle Show. By the time the sun was again setting, Mayra Padilla and I were positioned in the entrance way, as a pair of contemplative human cacti. Behind us, Matthew Couper's painting monkey worked on an animated version of Albrecht Dürer's Melancholia, and Artist Michael Barrett, in minimalist athletic attire, labored to deliver A Truckload of Paradise one shovel-load at a time. His growing trail of sand tracked past Nathan Coté's images of plants miraculously grown from vacuumed dust and Jenessa Kenway's endlessly flowing High Life video installation. Later, 'Ginger Healer' Jevijoe Vitug concocted a restorative, magical brew to share with audience participants.
The short video The Traveling Miracle Show @ Reno Art Works gives a little taste of the event.
video

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Traveling Miracle Show @ Momas N Dadas

There was a great response to The Traveling Miracle Show at Momas N Dadas New Genres Project House in the Las Vegas Arts District. The First Friday festival brought in an audience who enjoyed the installations, unicorn rides and a Sin Eating feast. Seen here is Nathan Coté's, 'Self Watering Suspended Lawn' and Brent Holmes' 'Sin Eater' also featuring Yasmina Chavez and Ashanti McGee. DJ Cyril Noir and burlesque performer Ella Mental rounded off the evening in style. For further coverage, see the article and footage by Sonya Padgett and Chase Stevens of the Las Vegas Review Journal.




Monday, April 1, 2013

Greetings from Silverado Belle – ‘The Bandit Queen Curator’ from the wild western town of Las Vegas, Nevada….

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I am honored to be invited to guest host this long-running Arts Journal, established in 2005 by my artist friend and partner-in-crime Jo Russ. My focus as a curator is on artists, exhibitions and events shaped by the local culture. SB

From the heart of a miraculous metropolis in the desert…
For my first post, I would like to introduce a one-night art installation and performance event ‘The Traveling Miracle Show’ which I have assisted with in a curatorial role. It opens 6pm this First Friday April 5th at the new Momas and Dadas New Genres Project House, in the heart of the Las Vegas Arts District. In the tradition of the historic traveling medicine shows, the audience is promised ‘Astonishing Spectacles’ and ‘Miraculous Events’, including a mystical beast, human cacti, an infinite fountain of alcohol, and a cure for melancholia.
            I have enjoyed working with these seven exciting Las Vegas-based artists to develop this touring show which been awarded funding from the Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Participating in the show are Artist Michael Barrett, Nathan Coté, Matthew Couper, Brent Holmes, Jenessa Kenway, JK Russ and Jevijoe Vitug. These artists have established reputations in the fields of video, performance and installation. Couper, Holmes, Russ and Vitug participated in the 2012 ‘London Biennale in Nevada’ performance event, proclaimed “an avant-garde success” by Las Vegas City Life. Barrett and Kenway were featured in the 2012 ;Off the Strip New Genres Festival’ at the Las Vegas Contemporary Arts Center. Coté has just concluded his MFA Thesis show  ‘If you can understand this, I’m sorry. The mystery is lost to you.’
            Details for the Las Vegas event are below, and the artists will then take The Traveling Miracle Show on the road to Reno Art Works for the night of Friday April 19th.

First Friday April 5th 6:00 – 11:00 PM
Performance Schedule:
6:00 PM onwards ‘Sin Eater’ performance
7:00 – 8:00 PM ‘Desert Bloom’ performance
8:00 – 9:00 PM ‘Unicorn’ performance
Free entry.
Momas and Dadas New Genres Project House, 926b South Casino Center Blvd, Las Vegas, NV89101
momasanddadas.wordpress.com

Friday, October 5, 2012

Transferring to Facebook Arts Journal page

Thank you to everyone who has followed my blog posts here over the years. It is time for a change, having begun posting here in December 2006. I find the new Blogger format is not flexible enough for posting a number of photographs. So, for now, I am going to post new arts journal entries on my Facebook Arts Journal page here.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Night Sky at the USA Lounge


Los Angeles-based artist Alison O'Daniel brought her touring film 'Night Sky' to the iconic USA Lounge, in conjunction with Pop Up Art House, Henderson. The screening began with live sign by Lisa Reynolds and the theme of hearing and communication continued throughout the film. For me, the star of the film was the white boxer 'Deafinite' - a ghostly shape running through the desert. Beautifully filmed, 'Night Sky' delivered leisurely, but compelling, viewing.
O'Daniel, Reynolds and Deafinite were then heading to The Guild Cinema in Albuquerque, and eventually to the Cleveland and Detroit art museums.
The USA Lounge's vintage-style popcorn maker was popular with the younger members of the audience, and musician Zach Ryan played a great farewell set for Las Vegas, before heading out to Nashville, TN.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wildlife Divide


Having taken part in Wildlife Divide's Video and Sound Art workshop at Mt Charleston, it was an enjoyable experience to make another journey into the mountains for the opening reception exhibiting the results of the three recent workshops.
The exhibition will also travel to Emergency Arts with a reception October 6th 3-6pm.
The exhibiting artists are:
Janice Barrow, Cynthia Behr Warso, Raul Capitulo, David Carter, Benton Corder, Rhonda Cribbs, Joseph Guadamuz, Jenessa Kenway, Eri King, Orlando Montenegro, Oxana Petrov, Magdalen Rodriguez, Miguel Rodriguez, JK Russ, David Sánchez Burr, Javier Sánchez, Keri Schroeder, Erin Stellmon, Sarah Warso.






Saturday, September 15, 2012

some shows seen recently...










The London Biennale in Nevada exhibition opened at the Contemporary Arts Center, showing works by the individual artists and the documentary of the July performance event by film maker Jakob McCarthy. Documentary DVDs and the catalog of the event are available at the CAC.
Blackbird Studios are featuring great shows from Enrique Nevarez, Joel Spencer and Eva Steil. And around the corner on Imperial, Photo Bang Bang showcase the photography which has earned them an enviable reputation.
Last, but definitely not least, Matthew Couper's one-night preview 'Skins & Teeth" at Alios gallery space, along with the publication launch of the catalog Thirty-Three.

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