A Day with LVCCLD

MARJORIE BARRICK MUSEUM DARREN WITH BONDI

On October 20th, a few members of the museum staff went on a field trip. D.K. Sole writes about it.

Darren Johnson, the Gallery Services Coordinator for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library system, is here to show us his spaces. Not all cities have rooms reserved for art exhibitions in their libraries but we have — “How many?” we ask him. Twelve, he says. We visit the one at the Clark County Library branch first because it’s the closest. We won’t have time to see them all.

He tries to organize the exhibitions so that they match the other events in the branch, he explains, showing us the work of Greg Preston, a local photographer who has been making portraits of celebrities in comics and animation. The Las Vegas Comic Book Festival is scheduled at the same library branch on November 4th. Later in the day at Enterprise Library, Johnson will tell us that he decided to exhibit Sarah Petkus and Mark Koch’s Light Play here because the piece is neon and kinetic — “the robots,” he calls it — and this library building hosts DJ classes. It’s not always possible to match the art to the event, but he does it whenever he can.

Another library employee, recognizing him, urges him to make a studio visit to an artist who might be able to show in one of their galleries: “She is a Native American spirit performer and she does multimedia things …”

Is that how artists usually find themselves showing at the library galleries? Through studio visits? No: he says, they can submit a proposal themselves. He promises to send us a link to the guidelines. Entering the new Clark County Library computer lab we all look at Orlando Montenegro Cruz’s huge canvas Continuity Rhythm, 2010. The library system has its own collection of artwork, explains Johnson. Almost all of it is on display. We’ll see the storage room later. People’s heads are rearing up behind the regular shapes of the monitors. Regular and irregular forms, we notice; and throughout the bookshelves people are contrasted against the rectangular shapes of the books. The form of the rectangle runs through the building. Here is the shape of the canvas and the pedestal.

 

MARJORIE BARRICK MUSEUM_CAGE LOCKED

We drive on. The gallery at the West Las Vegas branch is full of Kip Miller’s surrealist paintings. “This was one of those times when the artist brought so much work that we couldn’t fit it all on the walls,” explains Johnson. He is modest about his role as a curator, saying that he more or less trusts the artist to bring him the right pieces for the show they want, but he also recounts a debate he had with Miller over whether the works should hang in chronological order or in thematic groups. At one point we ask him how many shows he hangs in the library galleries each year. About seventy-five to eighty, he replies thoughtfully. Once upon a time the library system held its own juried shows as well, but they were a lot of work to organize and the artists often forgot to pick up their art again afterwards. Now they sometimes host exhibitions of work that has already passed through the jury processes of Las Vegas’ regional art groups: the Las Vegas Artists Guild, the Las Vegas Woodturners, the Las Vegas Polymer Clay Guild, and a number of others, about fifteen in total.

The Polymer Clay Guild and the Woodturners are on display in high glass cases around the walls of an annex at Sahara West Library. Artists from Opportunity Village have the other annex. The room between them is showing Anthony Bondi. On the elevated balcony of a closed side room we discuss the chances of an artist residency. A door leads out to a narrow courtyard. In the other direction we’re shown the storage area where the off-display pieces of the library’s collection are maintained carefully in shelves, drawers, and racks. The racks are numbered one to eleven. Johnson pulls one of them out and a portrait of a woman’s head ballooning against a bright green background comes into view. This balloon stands displaced in mid air. A metal boy is lying on top of the flat files cabinet behind us. On the way out of the building we stop to say hello to two artists who have been looking at Bondi’s collages. One of them, Dave Mazur, is showing his paintings in the gallery at the Centennial Hills branch and we go there next to see them – a room of sunlit scenery watercolors, of mountains, trees, grass, sky, and burros standing by foliage. This building is LEED certified, says Johnson.

There must be a substantial number of Las Vegas artists who can say at any given moment, like Mazur, “I am showing at a library gallery,” and an even larger number who can say, “I have shown at a library gallery,” or “I will show at a library gallery.” Think of them all bound together through LVCCLD: it is amazing. Do other cities have this connection? A small boy strides into the gallery and makes a show of rushing around shouting “Boring, boring!” at everything without looking at it. His eye is on his mother outside. This is a performance of independence, like any act of criticism, though later he will learn not to be so transparent about his motives.

He has recognized the gallery as a place where something is being asked of him. This seems right. He knows that it wants a new kind of attention from him, something that is not the same as the attention he shows outside, in the corridor, in the carpark, or in the book-area of the library. Nor is it the attention of a classroom. His reaction to the demand must be complicated. By shouting, “Boring,” he is trying to make it as stupid as possible. Stupidity in this setting is defiance of the demand. Once he has pointed vigorously at all of the paintings he runs back to his mother as if he has come off a stage. Sometimes someone in the library system will try to close down a gallery space, says Johnson. They want to change it into an after-school homework room. He goes to meetings and defends the galleries. “I think it does something for the community. If [the libraries] become just a career center they lose that culture; they become a sad place.” He wonders if some of the rooms could be developed into “STEAM maker spaces, where you can make art and look at art too.” But the boy who shouted “Boring!” was already making something.

Now we are on the road again after visiting Lolita Develay’s paintings at West Charleston. It’s getting late. We need to be back at the museum. Everyone in the car is reluctant. There are still so many galleries we haven’t seen. “Do you have time for one quick little visit along the way?” Johnson proposes. “It’s the robots …”

MARJORIE BARRICK MUSEUM_ROBOTS

Photographs.

Top: Johnson at Sahara West Library with The Art of Anthony Bondi.

Center: The Sahara West Gallery Services storage area.

Bottom: Johnson at Enterprise Library making an adjustment to Light Play by Sarah Petkus and Mark Koch.

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Bernard and Nancy Sorofman

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Ed Fuentes of Paint This Desert spoke to the Sorofmans on October 25th. The next day he sent us this interview.

Bernard and Nancy Sorofman visited the Barrick Museum of Art today. The two alumni have a connection to a younger campus, as they worked on the site when the Barrick was a different kind of museum. “I was hired in late ‘69 to work at DRI by Richard Brooks”, said Bernard. DRI stood for Desert Research Institute.

So what did the future Professor and Executive Associate Dean at The University of Iowa College of Pharmacy do at the Barrick?

“Open the door. Take care of people. Watch out for tortoises that went around scaring people,” he said.

“There was a cobra that kept getting loose,” reminded Nancy Sorofman, whose last name was Jackson when she an archaeology major.

Both graduated from UNLV in 1972 and the campus keeps changing each time they visit, they said.  “It’s quite different. Big. Diverse,” says Bernard.  What was the tone and feel of the campus then? “Small. Confused,” he says with a reflective smile. “There was one dorm. They had just opened the business building.”

Being the early 1970s, was there a campus culture of protests, activism, all the things we think about with 1960s and 70s university life?

“Uh. No. It was a commuter school,” said Bernard as he pointed to the parking lot. “That was all dirt.”

Still, they come back to visit. “What I really like is the garden out here, next to the museum,” he says, where a memory dirt lane is now in the middle of a Xeriscape garden next to museum with a new name.

 

 

What Did Art Make You Think About Today? (Relationships, Careers, and the Recession)

MARJORIE BARRICK MUSEUM_JULIAN KILKER

Untitled photograph by Julian Kilker, 2009

This is the second entry in our What Did Art make You Think About Today? series.

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Julian Kilker brought one of his classes to see Tested Ground before it closed on September 16th. Kilker is the UNLV Graduate Coordinator of Journalism and Media Studies and an Associate Professor of Emerging Technologies. He talks about developing a complex understanding of the relationships between humans and the machinery they create. During the tour he told us that Jenny Odell’s Bureau of Suspended Objects reminded him of the 1979 book Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. Meanwhile, Alexa Hoyer’s Targets series took him back to a time when he visited a firing range to take pictures of the shooters’ makeshift targets, just as Hoyer had done. By coincidence they both chose the same range.

Hoyer began her series in 2014. Kilker was there five years earlier while the recession was robbing people of their jobs. In the same terrain where she photographed a miscellaneous number of things (a pineapple, a book, a mannequin leg), he found himself surrounded by the relics of terminated employment. Later he sent us some of his photographs and this email:

 

I photographed informal shooting ranges in the Sloan Canyon area in March 2009 but with a different focus [to that of Hoyer]. The household, work, and personal artifacts [in my photographs] appeared linked to the economic downturn, and the number of CRT TV sets linked to the transition from SD broadcast to HD.*

DK [the tour guide] and I discussed the idea that isolated desert shooting ranges allow people to destroy objects of private shame such as failed relationships and careers — something not possible in normal shooting ranges.

 

*Attached to the email was a copy of an article from 2008 called Recycling of Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) in Electronic Waste, by Dr. Sunil Herat of Griffith University, Queensland. “It is estimated that CRT constitutes around 65% of the weight of a television or a computer monitor,” Herat writes. “Environmental impacts of waste CRTs arise mainly from its lead content … lead from CRTs could pose a major risk to the environment.” During the class, Kilker told us he had seen the innards of blown-apart televisions scattered across the Sloan Canyon firing range in sheets of glittering fragments.

What Did Art Make You Think About Today? (Replicas)

 

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Joan Linder, Toxic Archives, 2013 – present, watercolor and ink on paper | Photo: http://www.fotoahoy.com

 

To open our new series, What Did Art Make You Think About Today?, Barrick Interim Director Alisha Kerlin shared some thoughts on replica art with D.K. Sole, who typed them out for this post. We’re planning to solicit more entries for the series in the future.

Why are artists and makers interested in replicating objects? 

Looking at the Barrick right now I see replication everywhere. On view in the Braunstein library we have three ancient conch shells that seem identically genuine until you read the label and realize one of them is made of clay. “Real shell, fake shell, real shell,” said Joshua Wolf Shenk of BMI when we showed them to him, running over the words as if they were haiku. The real shells were collected by the same West Mexican cultures that made the clay shell. Why did they want a ‘fake’? Visitors who look at the Joan Linder drawings in the East Gallery might wonder why we’ve pinned so many photocopies to the walls until they notice that the works are actually ink drawings – handmade replicas of government documents detailing experiments carried out after the atomic bomb tests of the mid-20th century. A tulip on the floor nearby seems to be peering at three pictures of plants hanging on the wall near its head, but the flower is made of paper, and the pictures are, of course, not real plants. The entire arrangement is a work by Andreana Donahue, Lost Tulip (Semper Augustus Flame), 2017.

Meeting with Assistant Professor Josh Vermillion from the UNLV School of Architecture, I showed him the display of shells and we talked about Linder’s drawings. Together we were trying to work out ways that our two areas of the College of Fine Arts could support and enrich one another. Vermillion offered me an idea. What if the School of Architecture and the Architecture Studies Library used laser scanning to make virtual replicas of the objects in our Mexican mask collection? What if their virtual reality technologies were incorporated into our workshops with CCSD school children?

My mind was working. What does it mean to have an ‘unreal’ encounter with an artwork? How is this new technology different from a ritual object or an observational drawing? There are new opportunities here. These are ideas I want us to unpack. 

 

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Andreana Donahue, Lost Tulip (Semper Augustus Flame), 2017, paper, glue acrylic, graphite, found photos

 

(Thanks to that meeting, the School of Architecture and the Architecture Studies Library is planning to open a pop-up “augmented reality sandbox” during the Barrick’s opening reception on October 6, 5 – 9 p.m. “inviting you to sculpt, scan, and walk-through virtual landscape and environments.”)