THIS WEEKEND was happily, potently struck by poetry and art — and was also the fulfillment of a kind of secret, slightly desperate, subterranean hope hatched earlier in the week. This requires rewinding to Monday, Nov. 7.
Which was a fraught day, to say the least, clouded by election anxieties — sure, anxieties specific to the election and, don’t you know, awesome, a free-floating bonus set of larger, anamorphic anxieties about What It All Means for Whose America Is It Anyway? I chose to bail on my smoggy headspace with a bit of escapism — literally escaping to UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall for a small reception to welcome an exhibit of a suite of important pieces from acclaimed — it is not an abuse of hyperbole, I think, to say legendary — Nevada artist Rita Deanin Abbey.
THE RECEPTION marked a change in seasons, usually hard to come by here: They served hot chocolate. The Abbey art, on display through May 2023, was unseasonal in that sense, but not unwelcome. What I mean is that her paintings such as the hypnotic “Woman in the Surf” have a kind of glittering sensuality that invokes beachside protocol like shading your eyes, involuntarily smiling into something bright. Beyond that, I always scrutinize a little bit: I can report that the brushstrokes are all artist’s brushstrokes, if that makes sense. Commanding and unself-conscious.
Hope and relief propel to Thursday. Went to a poetry reading by Anthony Cody at Black Mountain Institute HQ at UNLV. (Disclosure: gf works at BMI.) Cody is an experimental poet, but more importantly, he is an explosive poet in that he leverages various visual conceits — diagrams, marginalia, graphs, the modality of the technical and bureaucratic — to explode them for the bitter historic truth beneath. Maybe even the mystical: By reading’s end, we had a group incantation going with Cody as poet-conductor. It felt good and I was down with it.
Friday and Saturday were spent with two separate local artists who propose an interesting polarity. At Core Contemporary, Zoe Camper’s black and white drawings bore obsessive devotion to rendering a very personal, imagined world. She methodically and painstakingly scritches out detailed line portraits of “Callers,” imagined beings bursting from beneath Strip casinos. They look primal and grim in their bug-eyed ferocity, but Camper says they’re benevolent entities. She also explained her rationale for sealing her work with cryptographic signatures. I don’t remember the rationale, but I like the idea of publicly authenticating an intensely private vision. Also, look closely at her work: She’s scratching off almost as much as she’s scratching on. It gives the work a neurotic, devotional, vibrating stillness.
AN ART COLLECTOR emailed me with some enthused urgency: Go check out Brian Gibson’s Boytoy Summer work at Inside Style Saturday. Harumphed, got dinner plans, no can do, wagh wagh.1 Squeezed in a visit and, yeah, now I blog at you with some enthused urgency: Go check out Brian C. Gibson’s Boytoy Summer work. He is young and inseparable from his art, which I suppose is a way of saying his messy, absorptive, zany abstract paintings are less objects than incidental captures of projective activity, a process, as they say. They’re also colorful, undisciplined by any external logic, and utterly guileless. I want to say this last part carefully: I suspect he has no idea what he’s doing. By that I mean that’s because I suspect that in his painting he’s not doing something — or doing anything. He’s being something. That is natural, and rare.
Photo: Work by Brian C. Gibson/Andrew Kiraly
Somewhere in all this I also managed a visit to Ralph Jones Display, a flocked and foiled kitsch eruption masquerading as a Christmas store. It also happens to be a local institution.