Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2019

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Artists create a potent work in the two-part ‘Reduced’

RC Wonderly

A piece by RC Wonderly.

It's hard enough to get it together to produce one exhibition, let alone multiple. Add to that the pressure of keeping things interesting, and you can't help but wonder how artists manage.

Well, prepare to get schooled: Daniel Habegger and RC Wonderly III up the ante this spring with a two-part exhibition that justifies the addendum. Reduced Part I, at the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery, focuses on 2-D work by the artists, while the Clark County Government Center's Rotunda hosts the strictly three-dimensional Reduced Part II. The shows overlap ever so briefly from now through April 9, and a tandem visit is definitely in order.

Click to enlarge photo

A piece by Daniel Habegger.

Anyone familiar with Wonderly's ongoing explorations into the fundamental reciprocity between the two- and three-dimensional will not be surprised at his participation in Reduced. An extension of research similar to that of Gordon Matta-Clark's "cut-out" pieces, Wonderly generated a series of shapes as the byproduct of cutting into stacks of paper. The artist multiplies these shapes (and has for several years) in an ongoing study of material and form, treating OSB (oriented strand board) as if it were Purple Heart (fancy hardwood).

Prior to Reduced, Habegger's work was unfamiliar to this viewer. The Swiss-born artist moved to Las Vegas in 1996, with a hefty resume in tow. Habegger's paintings and installations appear markedly affected by the careening cross-mutation of Vegas' cultural hodgepodge, architectural skyline, and the native landscape.

These two are a match made in heaven. Both appear extremely process-driven, exercising restraint and economy.


Reduced Part I
Four stars
Daniel Habegger and RC Wonderly III Winchester Cultural Center Gallery 3130 S. McLeod Drive, through April 9
Reduced Part II
Four stars
Daniel Habegger and RC Wonderly III Government Center Rotunda 500 S. Grand Central Parkway, through May 7
Other shows worth seeing
CAC 21st Annual Juried Exhibition. Jeff Gaunt, Juror. Inside the Arts Factory
• Goldwell Open Air Museum Open Studio and Design Symposium (Saturday April 3 only, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.) Rhyolite, Nevada
Unlikely Events. Brent Sommerhauser. Brett Wesley Gallery

Okay — which show to see first? The two function really nicely in proximity no matter the order, but I have to say the drama of the Rotunda is undeniably attractive. Habegger really grounds the space with his "River//Stop (Snake Valley Disaster)." An installation in three pieces, "River//Stop" uses particle board, plywood and native rock to essentialize the structure of a dry riverbed/valley. For all its minimal austerity, the piece is almost kind of gluttonous: The untreated wood and rock against the shiny gray-granite flooring, sweeping glass, and brazen geometric light slanting through the window made my palms sweaty. And there's just enough space between each segment to create a stopgap of sexy tension. The piece criticizes a proposed drainage of the Snake Valley in White Pine County; it also fundamentally and expertly reduces landscape. Rarely have I seen an artist expand the intersection of nature and nonsecularity at which the Rotunda's architecture hints.

Wonderly's 3-D offering, while strong, slightly misses the mark. Each of the three "Untitled" pieces repeatedly rotates the direction of a unique shape, creating an interlocking planar segment held aloft by an easel-like stand — kind of like a piece of tile flooring. Wonderly's impeccable command of material and craftsmanship results in a flawless surface that fits and starts with the direction of OSB woodgrain, alternately shimmering and matte. Interestingly, the surfaces almost simulate an assessor or aerial map. But the use of stands pushes a one-directional viewing experience, while the elegant surface finish emphasizes a fairly tame stand construction lacking in heft. A more substantial structure might have weighted the piece and forced physical navigation.

More successful are Wonderly's 2-D "Untitled" contributions to the Winchester. The best is a jazzy and modern geometric pattern in laminate — a cool beige switchback of flipped shapes and slightly tilting shadow plays. Of a series of tinted Bondo drawings on sleekly finished OSB, I prefer a small study in extra-dark crisscrossing grays that tango with the warm striations of pressed-wood grain. Also of note is a petite gouache and graphite painting of overlapping shapes in dulled tones, revealing layers of muted color, thought, and labor.

Habegger's excellent paintings pack an unsuspecting wallop of layered color. Abstractions like "Two-tier" offer parched putty tones and stucco-y whites masking warm reds and bright blues buried deep within, slowly revealed with prolonged study. The colors suggest a deconstructed domestic architecture of Vegas, raw in paint-handling but refined in hue. "Roller traces on 2 tone field" is a standout, with associations to everything from dirty stucco to laying facedown in our scorched red earth.

The artists' statement conveys a connection to recent local economic upheavals that have resulted in reductions in everything from home values to arts institutions. But who hasn't the economy affected? The association, while relatable, seems a bit forced. Something tells me, economic fallout or no, these two artists would still be hard at work reducing complex reality into the clearest of forms and the simplest of matter.

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