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Las Vegas Diaspora: The Emergence of Contemporary Art from the Neon Homeland
Tim Bavington, Step (In) Out, 2007, Synthetic polymer on canvas, 96 x 288 in. Collection of Adrian Koerser. © Tim Bavington 2007.

LAS VEGAS, NV.-The Las Vegas Art Museum (LVAM) celebrates the arts in Las Vegas with the exhibition Las Vegas Diaspora: The Emergence of Contemporary Art from the Neon Homeland. The exhibition features artists who have been recognized for artistic achievement after earning degrees in studio art at the University of Nevada , Las Vegas (UNLV). Organized by Las Vegas critic and curator Dave Hickey, the exhibition will showcase a selection of artworks by 26 artists who work in a variety of media. All of the featured artists studied with Hickey between 1990 and 2001, when Hickey taught art theory and criticism in the Department of Art at UNLV. (Hickey now serves in the English Department at UNLV as Schaeffer Professor of Modern Letters.)

“LVAM is pleased to present the Las Vegas Diaspora exhibition as our way of celebrating the arts in Las Vegas , and to demonstrate the Museum’s commitment to supporting the local art community,” says LVAM Board of Trustees President Jim Zeiter. “The exhibition provides the opportunity to introduce the artists who are out in the world representing our city. These artists are some of the best and most interesting artists in the country; they deserve to be recognized here in Las Vegas for their contributions to the culture.” Zeiter adds, “Some of the artists were born and raised here. Nearly half of them still live and work here. We are providing an opportunity for the Southern Nevada community to get to meet the artists personally, and see examples of the works that have brought them recognition in major art centers.”

According to LVAM Director Libby Lumpkin , many of the artists included in the exhibition are highly accomplished: “The Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired works by two of the artists for its permanent collection. Other Diaspora artists have had solo exhibitions at major museums, including the Tate Modern in London , the Los Angeles County Museum , Kemper Museum , UCLA’s Hammer Museum , and the Cue Foundation in New York . Most Diaspora artists exhibit their works in established galleries in New York or Los Angeles . Many show regularly in Paris , London , Cologne , Milan , Tokyo , and other international art centers.” Lumpkin adds, “Dave Hickey gave many of the artists their start by including them in exhibitions he organized around the country. He was the logical choice to organize the exhibition.”

“When I joined the Department of Art at UNLV in 1990, I knew that students who chose Las Vegas to study art would have to be a special breed,” says Hickey, “and they were. At that time, the city of Las Vegas could hardly have been considered the art destination that it is today. But it was then, as it is now, an extremely self-selecting venue. It attracts a certain kind of person, so I wasn’t surprised that the kids who came here were adventuresome, cosmopolitan, self-sufficient, and indifferent to parental oversight. As a result of their industry and courage, some things that happen in Vegas don’t stay in Vegas. They go out and change the world.”

Participating artists include: Rev. Ethan Acres (Muscle Shoals, AL); Robert Acuna (Los Angeles); Philip Argent (Santa Barbara); Aaron Baker (Chicago); Tim Bavington (Las Vegas); Thomas Burke (New York); Jane Callister (Santa Barbara); Bradley Corman (Vancouver, Canada); Jacqueline Ehlis (Portland); Curtis Fairman (Las Vegas); Gajin Fujita (Los Angeles); Sush Machida Gaikotsu (Las Vegas); James Gobel (San Francisco); Sherin Guirguis (Los Angeles); Jack Hallberg (Las Vegas); James Hough (Las Vegas); Shawn Hummel (Las Vegas); Carrie Jenkins (Los Angeles); Angela Kallus (Las Vegas); Wayne Littlejohn (Las Vegas); Victoria Reynolds (Los Angeles); David Ryan (Las Vegas); Jason Tomme (New York); Sean Slattery (Las Vegas); Yek (Singapore and Las Vegas); and Almond Zigmund (New York).

Dave Hickey is one of the most highly acclaimed art critics in the world. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the “genius” award) for 2002-2007. Hickey has published and lectured widely, and has received numerous honors and honorary degrees. He is best known for two volumes of critical essays published by Art Issues Press, The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty (1993), and Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (1998). Profiles of Hickey have appeared in Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, The Economist, and other publications. Hickey has organized numerous exhibitions, including the international exhibition Beau Monde, the fourth Site Santa Fe biennial, which won the 2001-2002 Best Show in a Kunsthalle Award from the Association of International Critics of Art. Recently, Hickey served as Project Advisor and Associate Producer for Ric Burns’s four-hour biographical documentary of Andy Warhol for the American Masters series on PBS, which aired in November of 2006.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by The Las Vegas Art Museum and BrightCity Books. The fully illustrated catalog features an essay by Dave Hickey, and individual artist entries.

The exhibition is made possible by LVAM’s Joyce Mack Exhibitions Fund and James and Michelle Zeiter Exhibitions Fund. Patron support is provided by Wally Goodman and Patrick Duffy, Robin and Danny Greenspun, Thomas and Bonnie Lawyer, Dana and Greg Lee - Eureka Casinos, Joyce Mack, Manpower of Southern Nevada, Inc., Blanche and Phil Meisel, Jim and Beverly Rogers, and Jim and Michelle Zeiter.

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