Made for Each Other

Kreloff allows his subjects’ true colors to shine in his bright portraits

When Martin Kreloff was a kid, his mom gave him a present: 64 black Crayolas. It was, he says, “the best gift ever.”

In all of his other boxes of crayons, he’d burned through the black and dark blue crayons the fastest, leaving an assortment of lighter colors. It wasn’t that he didn’t like color—but that he liked making definitive lines between colors. Even then, before his formal training and a career that spans 50 years, he leaned toward clear borders, which evolved into his hard-edge paintings. “I don’t like to blend,” he says.

Today, Kreloff absorbs the bright colors and personalities of Las Vegas to inspire his work. His exhibit of portraits, Made in Vegas, is on display at Winchester Cultural Center Gallery. The acrylic paintings are big, bright and pop-artish, and reflect his personal life in Vegas, including one of his fitness trainer and one of his longtime partner, Tim Olsen. There are also local notables such as state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas.

Kreloff paints in his home studio, a few blocks off the Strip, where he can see the Encore and the Stratosphere—a home featured in the 2008 photography book, America at Home (Running Press, 2008). In that photo-worthy home, he works without ever dripping paint on the floor—maybe something about blending colors? “People are always amazed,” he says. “I’m just a very neat painter.” Still, his works are thick with acrylics, sometimes 10 or 12 layers that he dries with a hair dryer. One painting takes him about three months to complete.

Kreloff was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and studied at the Parsons School of Design. While Made in Las Vegas features more personal works, his career has stretched well into the public realm—he’s been commissioned to create artwork for corporations such as Burger King and Harley-Davidson. His work has been shown in more than 25 solo exhibits worldwide.

He lived 25 years in Miami before moving to L.A. and then, seven years ago, to Las Vegas. “I love it here,” he says. “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think, I could go out and do whatever I want right now in this city, and then I roll over and go back to sleep. I just like knowing I could.”

In that same spirit, he recently returned to drawing with Cray-Pas—the artists’ version of Crayolas. “I found that I enjoyed it because it took me back to my roots. You get a more immediate response drawing than painting.”