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September 20, 2019

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Stephen Hendee’s magical new exhibit

Stephen Hendee

Stephen Hendee’s The Pinpoint Remains

The Details

The Pinpoint Remains
Through August 3; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; free
Clark County Government Center, 455-7030

The large crystalline structures scattered throughout the Clark County Government Center Rotunda look eerily comfortable in their temporary home. Though they’re anomalous in color and material, it’s not far-fetched to imagine the rock-like formations working their way up through the floor or crash landing from the ceiling after a little shaky seismic activity.

If the diaphanous, color-inflected polyhedrons seem familiar, they should. The work draws from a favorite formal vernacular of artist and former Las Vegas resident Stephen Hendee, returning with The Pinpoint Remains. But you won’t find the sly sci-fi winks and heavy metal nods he’s known for seamlessly integrating within a serious interrogation of cultural theory.

Although the sculptures careen narrowly and delightfully close to B-movie prop (think Zardoz), Pinpoint appears to speak most clearly to concerns at the heart of object making: material and process.

How do you make something monumental out of polypropylene and a bit of silver tape? Hendee has a gift for taking simple components and transforming them into objects with physical and psychic heft. Using organic and geologic forms as inspiration, Hendee develops digital studies of crystallized geometries. While these renderings inspired the on-site construction of Pinpoint, the final form of the sculptures depended entirely on the artist’s spontaneous response to the characteristics of the materials. Similar to the large-scale environmental installations that Hendee is known for, everything was built on-site over a four-day period.

While the artist often works with internal colored gels or lighting to affect a rippled chroma glowing from within the translucent plastic forms, Pinpoint uses simple colored paper to achieve a similar result. Relying heavily on the changing light patterns afforded by the dramatic architecture of the Rotunda, the pieces manage to convey sparkly bits of colored illumination without any electricity at all.

The assimilation of the crystal forms into the Rotunda’s grand organic abstraction is potent. The architecture reduces its desert environment into a series of man-made natural references, i.e., the rock, the light, the space. This context grounds Hendee’s otherworldly forms, enhancing the already-blurred boundary between digital and organic. His preoccupation with virtual fabrication methods then begs the question: Does the digital become natural once it has been realized by the hands of man? A confluence of concerns comes forward: the essence of the natural, the man-made and man-made “natural” environments.

Placed within the confines of this rustic architectural environment, these deceptively simple-colored plastic crystals take on a fantastical quality. Hendee and The Pinpoint Remains fabricate a most unexpected quality: a humble bit of magic.

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