SAMPLER : LAS VEGAS
SELECTED WORKS THAT REFLECT
THE INTERSECTION OF TEXT & IMAGE
The intersection of text and image has had a long history from the hieroglyphic narratives that decorate Egyptian sarcophagi, to the bestiary of animals delicately rendered in illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages; domestic cross-stitch embroidery samplers, to the neon and incandescent-fueled horror vacui of the Vegas signs now lying in state in the ‘Boneyard’ at the Neon Museum.
SAMPLER : LAS VEGAS presents a selection of artists whose work commonly features the use of text and image. Each artwork in the exhibition holds its own autonomous intention according to the artist’s practice, yet they all gesture to new visual syntaxes that sample or relate - specifically, tangentially or obliquely - to a ubiquitous means of communication found in signage, logos and advertising. This hallmark of Las Vegas contributes much to its populist visual culture and context.
A cross-stitch sampler - a domestic symbol of home, and a sense of place - leads off the exhibition. The following works by artists (from Las Vegas to as faraway as New Zealand) consider notions of home, location, context, the human senses and formal aesthetics. The domestic scale of the artwork provides a more pensive counterpoint to the bombastic nature of the text and imagery in signage in Las Vegas.
Recently the Cosmopolitan Hotel and The D have chosen single letter logos to brand their establishments, while the Las Vegas Hilton (now LVH), Treasure Island (now TI) and Something Lovely Starting (SLS) have chosen the more pared-back form of the acronym. This shows the continuing development from the serif signs of the Wild West fonts, to the Googie architecture-inspired Astro-formed texts from Mid-Century Modern era, which have permeated the vistas and visions of the dazzled tourist and fused into the mind of permanent residents, creating a new syntax of signifiers that act like meeting points between contemporary ley lines. The most prominent being Betty Willis’s Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas visage when entering the Strip from the south and its smaller Downtown version.
'In Las Vegas, I love to walk on the Strip. I first came to the desert in 1967 to paint the landscape: searching for mystical visions. Inside the tree I was painting, I saw a smaller tree, and then another inside that, and then yet another going on to infinity … The tree by the shack where I lived, I imagined was covered with fruit like the tree of Good and Evil and as I continued to paint, it burst into flames like the Tree of Knowledge. But on the strip, there's no need to search, the neon signs, turning matter into color, are enormous visionary apparitions built for everyone to see.' - David Reed.
Whether ‘high brow’ or contextually vernacular, the synthesis of image and text has, and will continue to communicate ideas about who are we, how we exist in relation to place and population and what we see.
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I would like to thank all the artists involved, their enthusiasm and conversations while putting this exhibition together. These talks certainly helped shape the form of the exhibition and the unfolding nuances between the artworks. Thanks to the staff at the Clark County Museum, especially Cynthia Stanford who located and organized the loan of the Sampler from their collection. I would also like to thank artists not in the exhibition who deal with the concept of Las Vegas as a unique place. I see this exhibition as an extension to, and considerate of, artists such as Erin Stellmon, David Sanchez Burr, Jevijoe Vitug and Anthony Bondi, all who have had recent exhibitions that use specific Las Vegas aesthetics in their work and practice to talk of more global issues and concepts. I would also like to thank the Contemporary Arts Center Las Vegas and ALIOS for the opportunity to present this exhibition in a forum where viewers can visit, come together, discuss and further the conversation about the development of arts and culture in Las Vegas.
Matthew Couper. November 2013