While the murals created each year for Life is Beautiful tend to be the star of the festival’s art program, the weekend’s annual Crime on Canvas group exhibit also is a visual feast—and it’s equally as exciting as Downtown’s open-air gallery.
This year’s show runs the gamut of styles and mediums, and features works by local, national and international artists. While the location of the show (the Western Hotel) doubles as a rest stop for festivalgoers, it was clear Saturday night that many had stopped in specifically to see the creativity that Life is Beautiful had curated. The exhibit is a true gallery show, with all featured works (and limited-edition prints) on sale—and many attendees were pulling out their wallets to scoop up special festival souvenirs.
While most artists limited submissions to two or three, internationally recognized street artist Shepard Fairey—best known for designing the iconic “HOPE” poster for the Obama presidential campaign—and lowbrow legend Shag had full collections on display.
The former’s series of black, off-white and red silkscreen posters on wood panels featured interesting typography dripping with—you guessed it, Fairey fans—political ideology. One work of an old-fashioned gas station pump reads “Endless Power!,” “Petrol for an unlimited future,” and “With lung tonic,” while another juxtaposed a Statue of Liberty-esque figure next to the words “Come to Washington,” “Scale tipping services here” and “Justice is no longer blind.” Similar works on a grander scale can be found throughout Downtown, as Fairey has created two murals for Life is Beautiful since last year’s festival, one covering the Emergency Arts building on Fremont and Sixth streets, and the other on the west-facing side of the Plaza Hotel & Casino.
Shag’s submissions also stayed true to the artist’s well-known aesthetic. His retro scenes—this time, of posh cocktail parties and a fashion photo shoot—feature the same ’60s vibe enthusiasts have come to expect from the veteran artist. Think: Bouffanted women clutching martini glasses, a pin-up type sporting a tiger-striped swimsuit with a cigarette in her hand and a costume party at an apartment that looks a whole lot like Las Vegas’ vintage Peppermill lounge—complete with indoor fire pit and fountain.
Other highlights include a fun mixed-media piece by Paul Frank (framed toys of a steak and broccoli floret titled “Beef & Broccoli”), a lithograph by Mark Ryden titled “Life Is Beautiful” (featuring a geometric shape with the artist’s signature fantasy-like imagery) and a mixed media piece by local artist Juan Muniz picturing his sweet bunny-suited character Felipe, titled “Must End One Thing to Start Another.”
And even if you’re not familiar with the accomplished career artists included in the show, two names are instantly recognizable for music enthusiasts. Brandon Boyd, frontman of alternative rock band Incubus, returned to Crime on Canvas after being featured in last year’s show, exhibiting a watercolor and acrylic portrait (“Nicole in Gold”) and an intricately detailed mixed-media piece (“Maps of Innerspace”). The other musician showing off his other talents is none other than Matt Skiba of 2017 headliners Blink-182. His triptych titled “Coma Girl” has quite the noir vibe, featuring a mysterious woman’s portrait between two landscapes—all in black and white.
So, whether or not the festival’s art program was a ticket-purchasing consideration, there are plenty of reasons to stop in to the Western Hotel. With works by famous artists, lowbrow prints featuring entertaining social messages and some work by well-known contemporary musicians, there’s something for everyone at Crime on Canvas.