Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2024

The walls that bind

120-foot ‘ornamental’ replicates patterns of old Vegas structures in new Vegas public art


Leila Navidi

Las Vegas artist Catherine Borg puts the finishing touches on her public art project “ornamental” on Hoover Avenue on the north side of Soho Lofts in downtown Las Vegas on Friday.

Click to enlarge photo

Sculptures in the Patrick Nickell exhibit "Expansionism" at Dust Gallery are crudely finished, whimsical, cartoonish lines that reconfigure space.

Click to enlarge photo

"Sack and Sack" is part of Christopher Bauder's "Beyond the Valley" exhibition at UNLV's Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery in Las Vegas on Friday. Bauder's new work is figurative and playful.

The ornamental concrete walls that accent midcentury modern architecture in old Las Vegas neighborhoods was a stylish option for shading and security during the 1950s and ’60s.

Today the decorative walls, conjuring up visions of martini evenings and jet-age architecture, are revered by fans of old-school Vegas.

So when designing a public art project on Hoover Street at Las Vegas Boulevard, downtown resident and artist Catherine Borg tapped into the patterns as a way to integrate old and new Las Vegas.

Borg created a 120-foot work, titled “ornamental,” that replicates various patterns found on these retro walls. Made of reflective and transparent laser-cut acrylic and affixed to a glass wall lining the elevated sidewalk on the north side of SoHo Lofts, “ornamental” is the first of the public works completed by artists involved in the city’s Casino Center-Hoover Streetscape Enhancement Project.

Designed to last about two years, it’s conceptually similar to a video and light installation by Borg that dealt with displacement. Borg says criticizing the new in Las Vegas is oversimplifying the story.

“You can’t stop the essence of what this place is about, which is acceleration and transformation.”

Lisa Stamanis, visual arts program administrator for the city, calls “ornamental” “great iconography of an era that still has great interest and says something about the history of the area while proclaiming it a new neighborhood.”

The project, which will be dedicated Wednesday, was installed with the blessing of the residents of SoHo Lofts and its owner, Sam Cherry.

Details: Public dedication of “ornamental,” Hoover Street at Las Vegas Boulevard, 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday.

Candy land

The red, rubberlike Barbie legs emerging from soft sculptural forms adhered to the wall of Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery might be the first clue that the gallery is hosting artist Christopher Bauder’s Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition.

The clusters of pale yellow, egglike forms hanging on the opposite wall are another.

Bauder seems to have found his niche in his three-dimensional forms created from glossy latex house paint. “Beyond the Valley,” on display through April 12 at the gallery, is the latest sampling of the ever-evolving process. A little chaotic, a little surreal and far more representational than Bauder’s earlier works, this playful exhibit of the organic, oozing and erotic forms is both sensual and creepy.

Doll-like headless girls with pillowed bodies perch on stands or lounge on the ground. One collects black balls that have oozed from an organic shape above. Another drops otherworldly petals from her ankles.

A lot takes place in this Alice in Wonderland-style factory where the end goal is to deliver items to the “collector” in the upstairs gallery.

Eggs are slit open, with tiny red gloves emerging. Pillowy shapes have cushy orifices that invite you to dive in. Body parts are alluded to. And the desire to touch the glossy, sensual sculptures is ever-present.

Bauder’s work tends to mimic everyday items, but the works in this show are far more figurative: hands, legs, breasts and phallic adult toys, nipples that look like candy. Cartoonlike gloves, made from a mold of a troll doll, are dipped in pale, muted greens to represent medical procedure gloves.

It’s Bauder’s new creations, romping about on their own individual palettes, that create the sense of activity.

“It just became natural that some of these were going to take on personalities,” Bauder says while looking around the gallery. “But they’re still kind of isolated. You don’t know where they exist.”

Details: “Beyond the Valley,” 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, through April 12, Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, 895-3893.

Doodling in space

Patrick Nickell’s cardboard and plywood sculptures, on display through May 11 at Dust Gallery, are crudely finished, whimsical, cartoonlike lines that reconfigure space and create new environments.

Each painted a solid color, they jut from the wall, curve and roll through space, occasionally resting on the floor before reconnecting with themselves.

“It’s like doodling in space,” gallery owner Naomi Arin says.

The exhibit is titled “Expansionism” because it takes off from Nickell’s more angular works at Rosamund Felsen Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif.

It features nine sculptures. Each is constructed of coarse plywood with screws exposed and painted with muted, flat colors.

The exhibit is a departure for Arin, a contemporary art dealer with a “finish fetish” who appreciates the more traditional West Coast aesthetic with high-gloss finish.

But she says she couldn’t resist the works that seem so humble, but in a “minimalist, monumental style.”

Details: “Expansionism: New Sculpture by Patrick Nickell”; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, through May 11; Dust, 900 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 880-3878,

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