Your swordfish tacos come paired with a side of fresh graffiti art at the new Mercadito in Red Rock Resort. The Mexican restaurant group tapped graffiti powerhouse artist Erni Vales to create original works for its locations in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas.
The Miami-based Vales was in Las Vegas for a week in late July to complete the installation. He painted a patio mural and an Aztec clock-inspired piece in the main dining room.
One of the standouts is the grid of 98 sugar skulls above the host stand. Look for the members of the band KISS hidden in the grid. The playful mix of popular culture and Latin American heritage is a product of Vales’ Puerto Rican background and experience growing up in New York.
More Dia De Los Muertos imagery is featured in the piece “Everlasting Love,” which portrays a skeletal bride and groom as well as Vales’ signature 3-D graffiti text style found in the word “love” swooping across three panels. Other Latin American imagery comes in the form of Monarch butterflies, which have become symbols for immigration because of their annual migration from Canada to Mexico. Thick orange wings applied with a palette knife flutter above a pale-blue background of circling arrows and maze-like structures.
The most intriguing piece on display is “Im’possible”—a gritty, dripping urban collage packed with curious details such as fried eggs, fashion ads, infants and spray cans. The title playfully vacillates between “impossible” and “I’m possible.” The piece was inspired by Vales’ work on the movie set of Seven, where he was charged with giving a wall the appearance of “20 years worth of graffiti.”
The works on display spring from Vales’ long-standing desire to provide conversation pieces.
“When I was younger, if you went out to a bar, you wanted a good excuse to talk to a pretty girl,” Vales says. “You’re like, ‘Hey isn’t that an interesting painting? Look how interested I am in art!’ Because ‘what’s your sign’ doesn’t work anymore.’”