Scaling the Green Felt Jungle Gym

The 1963 book The Green Felt Jungle, written by Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris, exposed the graft, corruption and organized crime that made Las Vegas a glittering desert oasis. The latest exhibition at the Clark County Government Center’s Rotunda Gallery (500 S. Grand Central Parkway), Green Felt Jungle Gym, repeats none of the book’s dirty work, and instead soars blithely into the multistory rotunda with no more than a passing glance at the sins of the past.

Artist Mark Brandvik says that the title for his installation (pictured, in progress) is “just a riff” on the book’s title. It becomes clear that Brandvik’s interests lay elsewhere—and the green felt of Las Vegas gaming tables is just a jumping-off point. In this exhibition the artist departs from his usual medium of painting to experiment with sculpture.

Brandvik’s new creation recalls the striking lines, architectural forms and geographic locus of his previous painted works. For example, his La Concha series of paintings are notable for the strong, rhythmic lines derived from the historic Las Vegas building’s façade. In Green Felt Jungle Gym you can see the continuity with his past work through a similar attention to line, but this time rendered in a 3-D sculptural composition.

With allusions to the iconic architecture and facades of the Strip, Brandvik has used ordinary, industrial fencing material to create an installation that reminds you of construction scaffolding or a childhood playground. However, he’s built it on a giant scale, rising 25-30 feet into the air. In a playful way, Brandvik’s sculpture raises more questions than answers—a Las Vegas catechism in an imaginary place where anything is possible.

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