For three years, Vast Space Projects has acted like a dowsing rod, locating the buried artistic groundwater flowing between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. By keeping an eye on coastal talent, director Shannon McMackin has encouraged a visual dialogue between the two urban centers. (For example, Vast hosted the successful 10th Circle exhibit curated by L.A.’s David Pagel in April 2013.) And now, in celebration of its third anniversary, Vast Space presents III Many, which offers an eclectic blend of Las Vegas and Los Angeles artists.
The art pairings of III Many reveal an interfusion of shared visual and thematic concerns between the two cities.
The draped latex folds by L.A. artist Stevie Love soak up the water-muted photo-landscape by Las Vegas artist Mikayla Whitmore. A text fragment (“Bring Me Back”) stitched into the blurred halo of a school corridor by Whitmore points to the same lost youthful moments that L.A. artist Kelly Barrie pieces together with photos of isolated trees and dusty, timeworn cement pipes used by skateboarders of deceades past. The past, for these artists, is a wet and gritty thing—dredged up to be walked on once more or spread out like a slick latex blanket.
Some of the pieces in III Many share a focus on texture and tactile sensation. Las Vegas artist Daniel Habegger’s supple surfaces of ochre foam and wax panel entice fingertips. The bulbous fleshy latex forms of Las Vegas artist Christopher Bauder’s display are equipped with a pair of plastic gloves, tempting viewers to indulge in poking and fondling.
Nearby, thick fabric figures by Danielle Kelly (Las Vegas) join the abstract bio-figurative conversation offering distorted classical Greek forms. An adjacent work by Brandy Wolfe (L.A.) excerpts faces and limbs from royal figures from the pages of a book titled Undoubted Queen, absenting and filling Victorian voids.
Bright, thick-built painted forms of L.A. artist Chris Mercier share architectural musing with the Googie-era, low-relief wall panels of David Ryan.
There’s even an L.A.-to-Vegas art match waiting to happen. In III Many, Los Angeles’ Elana Melissa Hill portrays a satellite-image-esque landscape swirling with factory smokestacks, circuitry lines and sky. Hill’s work brings to mind a recent exhibit at Left of Center Gallery by Las Vegas’ Jevijoe Vitug. In Vitug’s Terra Infirma, his painted works employed bright dripping satellite-derived landscapes. This artist combo is ripe for pairing. Perhaps it could happen in a future show?
McMackin’s Henderson gallery is also participating in the trend of L.A. galleries, such as Night Gallery and Gavin Brown, moving out of their downtown spaces and into warehouses. The Huffington Post’s Mat Gleason dubbed it the start of the “Warehouse Era.” Of course, Vast Space’s new 5,000-square-foot gallery comes with its own challenges, such as climate control. Wendy Kveck’s temperature-sensitive, cake-crusted paintings, for example, had to be excluded from III Many. Nonetheless, the break from the pristine white-cube format is an enjoyable change.
The lower rent point of industrial areas also allows for more artistic experimentation, especially with scale. For instance, the towering globe-topped wood sculpture “Orbit” by L.A. artist Mike Dommermuth in III Many revels in the extra space—rising from floor to ceiling. The potential to accommodate monumental works balances out the challenges of maintaining a larger space.
In his article, Gleason speculates that warehouse spaces will forgo small, affordable projects in order to focus on big, pricey installations that are tailored to elite collectors, eventually winnowing out the middle class of the West Coast art world. While this scenario might be a concern in money-conscious L.A., it seems more likely that in Las Vegas, all that extra space would allow for a variety of projects both large and small. It’s not hard to envision smaller art projects nested within larger works —intriguing micro/macro possibilities abound.
As the number of alternative warehouse spaces continues to grow, it becomes even more critical to watch the visual dialogue between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Since Las Vegas is already a playground for L.A., the growing art movement here can easily link in with that city’s larger scene. One could envision the industrial sectors of Henderson and Las Vegas housing entire galleries freshly transplanted from Los Angeles. Artists Rachel Stiff and Jason Adkins have already made the migration from L.A. to Las Vegas. Perhaps the lost “middle-class” art scene of L.A. will be found in Southern Nevada? The more that L.A. artists show works at Vast and other galleries around the Vegas Valley, the more tenable this concept appears. By aggressively intermixing the work of Nevada and California artists and by being plugged into L.A. art trends, Vast Space Projects is more than a simple divining rod—it is leading the charge.
Through Aug. 6, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays, Vast Space Projects, 727 Susanna Way, Henderson, 323-240-2888, VastSpaceProjects.com.