Josh Agle, a.k.a. Shag

The master of mid-mod cool discusses his inspiration, hedonism in Las Vegas and why he’d name a bar after himself

Classic cocktails, tiki masks and Rat Pack cool cats live on in the mind of artist Josh Agle, better known as Shag. Agle’s quirky pieces are filled with women sporting beehive hairdos and wolves in Wayfarers, and have earned exhibitions from Tokyo to Las Vegas. Agle, 47, grew up in Hawaii and Southern California and has been painting for as long as he can remember, but it was 15 years ago that he made art his full-time job. His interest in all things mod gave birth to Shag. His aesthetic has manifested itself in more than paintings; Agle designed the menus, glassware and other adornments of Venus nightclub, formerly at the Venetian, and is lending his skill to a line of men’s wear due out in the fall. He also applied his unique style to this week’s cover of Vegas Seven.

Why does the mid-century inspire you?

I started incorporating that in my work because I was playing in 1960s garage bands and surf instrumental bands and got captivated by the look of the record covers back then. From that I got into the furniture and the furnishings and from that the architecture. I’d always loved that and when I painted I knew that’s what I wanted to paint.

What is it about art that excites you?

I like the magic behind art, that mysterious thing that allows an artist to take $15 worth of art supplies and turn it into something much more valuable, not just financially, but aesthetically and symbolically. That ingredient that makes those art supplies something more than just the ingredients is what makes art, and it’s the thing that captivates me.

Is there anyone you would like to work with?

I’d like to work with street artists like KAWS or Banksy. The idea of taking my art, which is tightly controlled, and allowing artists all over the world to turn it into graffiti or paste-ups would take it to a different place and might lead to some unexpected things.

What inspires you?

That has changed over time. My earliest paintings were based on my own experiences, places I had been, things that had happened to me and from that I moved onto trying to tell stories with my paintings. I’ve kind of come full circle where the paintings have gotten more personal and related to things that are going on in my life. Recently the influences have been internal and psychological things as opposed to external influences.

How does Las Vegas influence your work?

There’s a big under-trend of hedonism in my work and I think Vegas, the idea of Vegas or the concept of Vegas more so than the reality of it, that it’s this sinners’ playground, I definitely wanted to capture in my own paintings.

Would you ever design another venue?

I’m definitely open to designing another club. I have a whole storehouse of ideas—things I’d like to see in a bar, or things that might make the experience more fun and memorable. I spend a lot of time in bars, so I know what I’m talking about!

What would this place be called?

A bar called simply “Shag” would be a cool name.  It has a lot of meanings, many of which are applicable to a nightclub or cocktail lounge. And people remember that name.

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Rain Nightclub at the Palms underwent a transformation June 2 as Taste of the Nation took over. The foodie-pleasing party featured food from more than 30 of the city’s top kitchens, and benefited Share Our Strength, which strives to eliminate child hunger in America. Local beneficiaries included Three Square Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Las Vegas and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Chefs for Kids program.