MFA students from the UNLV department of art present an exhibition of new work, 'Unshelved,' at The Studio at the Sahara West Library, March 27 through May 30. The artists in the show address the library and research as jumping-off points for their work. The exhibition as a whole investigates the intersections of reading, research, and archives. Artists featured in the exhibition include: Cida de Aragon, Aaron Cowan, Erin K. Drew, Fawn Douglas, Homero Hidalgo, John McVay, Laurence Myers Reese, Emily Sarten, and Xiaomeng Tang. In this exhibition, UNLV research comes off the shelf; it is animated and alive.
"Unshelved" features a broad range of styles and approaches to object-making. Media, text, and books are deconstructed in many of the works. McVay’s series of fireproofed books questions what information we deem worth saving and also explores notions of preservation. The photographs of de Aragon use text to take on the perspective of an outsider in the city. Sarten draws on material from UNLV Special Collections to create fictional menus that evoke Vegas’s visual past. Hidalgo’s abstract paintings are generated by using video and projection as source material to picture a kind of visual chaos.
The artists also explore monuments, spaces, and archives in relation to identity. Drew’s humorous soft sculptures and texts might relate to the current political moment; they consider tipping points. Reese is creating a series of jean pockets and hankies that build upon queer history. Cowan’s large-scale forts suggest intimate spaces for introspection. Douglas’s painterly collages and found-object assemblages examine Indigenous identity in relation to land protection and the commodification of culture. Similarly, Tang’s work looks at identity, culture, gender, and politics.
In addition to the work presented, books and media related to the artists’ research will be shared with the public. Visitors are encouraged to explore what items in the West Sahara Library relate to the exhibition.
de Aragon has lived in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Brazil. Her educational background includes a degree in architecture from the University of Sao Paulo, a master's degree in computing in design from Middlesex University, and a master's degree in photography from Goldsmiths College. She works across boundaries between installation, video, photography, and sound. Recurrent themes in her work and research are: urban migrants, homelessness, identity, place, and the integration of media art into public space. She was awarded a commission for the Women’s Suffrage Memorial in Brisbane, Australia, and her installation ‘Wasted!’ was exhibited in the Newcastle Art Gallery.
Cowan earned his BFA from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. An artist and arts organizer, he co-founded and directed the visiting artist residency for ARC in Chattanooga. His research, mixed media sculptures, performance, and videos explore psychology, play, labor, desire, masculinity, and violence. He scouts thrift stores and junk yards, hunting for objects and materials that carry an aura and history, reclaiming car parts, broken tools, and worn sports equipment and making them into softer expressions as actions against the hierarchies of gender.
Douglas is a member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. She also has roots in the Moapa Paiute, Cheyenne, Pawnee, and Creek Nations. She earned a degree in global studies from the College of Southern Nevada and a BA in art with a painting and drawing emphasis from UNLV. Douglas is a community organizer for many issues, including the conservation of Standing Rock, Gold Butte National Monument, and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. As an artist, she interprets her people’s history and presence with performance, sculpture, weaving, paint, and sewing. Her work aims to shine a light on race, class, and gender and ask what it means to be Native in the contemporary.
Drew is an interdisciplinary artist, organizer, and educator from Indianapolis. Her projects, including a monthly art-centric talk show, "Putty," have functioned as conceptual alternatives to, and sub-textual critiques of, the art market and cultural and academic institutions. Her work maintains a fascination with DIY processes and aesthetics, class, and the line between education and entertainment. She has exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Herron School of Art and Design, University of Toledo, Indiana University-Purdue, the Carnegie at Covington, and in artist-run galleries, cabarets, and bars. She earned her BFA in sculpture from Herron School of Art and Design.
Hidalgo is an Ecuadorian-American abstract painter. The focus of his artwork is a trial-and-error exploration of seemingly opposing forces: randomness vs. selection; geometric abstraction vs. direct expression; color as an illuminating agent vs. color as form and space; potentiality vs. actuality; and psychology vs. technology. To make his paintings, he devises systems to create new relationships between these juxtapositions. For example, the ancient mandala pattern may serve as a device to hold and organize superimposed line drawings of screen grabs from binge-watched films. Hidalgo's work is included in the collections of the Snite Museum of Art and Denver Art Museum. His work has been featured in the poetry journal Caliban, and in issue 132 of New American Painters. He recently was awarded a sponsorship grant from UNLV's Graduate & Student Professional Association (GPSA) to support his thesis research and is a nominee for the Dedalus Foundation Award for Painting.
McVay works between printmaking, collage, and more recently, collaborative sound and video installations. He thinks of the Las Vegas Strip as a richly textured and collaged landscape. He’s pursuing his MFA at UNLV to research Las Vegas, contemporary consumerism, American culture, ideology, nostalgia, and the spaces between high and low culture. He aims to push the boundaries of traditional printmaking techniques, bring printmaking into contact with sculptural installation, and combine sound and video elements in order to create immersive experiences. He earned a BFA in printmaking with a minor in art history from Arizona State University.
Reese’s performance-based research investigates the use of the queer body to navigate and disrupt capitalist labor environments. He has recently performed at KillJoy Collective (Portland, Oregon), Front/Space (Kansas City, Missouri) and 21C Museum Hotel (Bentonville, Arkansas). He received a BFA in studio art from the University of Oklahoma, Norman. He recently was awarded a UNLV GPSA sponsorship grant to support his thesis research.
Sarten works between the mediums of video, photography, and installation to explore ideas about gender, desire, consumerism, memory, and technology. She collects, archives, and remixes found footage from commercials, home movies, and VHS tapes. She’s interested in the behind-the-scenes of the Las Vegas fantasy and the various reinventions Las Vegas has undergone. She earned a BFA in photography and a minor in film and media production from Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.
Tang’s experience growing up in China and her decades as a nomadic artist and international student in the United States inspire her endless curiosity and shape her art practice. Through painting, printmaking, mixed-media sculpture, installation, and poetry, she engages in conversations about motherhood, absence, presence, and freedom. Prior to her move to Las Vegas, Tang studied at New York Academy of Art and Laguna Beach College of Art and Design. Recent exhibitions include a two-person exhibition at UNLV’s Grant Hall Gallery and “That’s What She Said,” a group exhibition at the Edwin W. Zoller Gallery at Pennsylvania State University.
The exhibit at the library was organized by the Vegas Institute of Contemporary Engagement (V.I.C.E) and the UNLV department of art.
About the Program:
The department of art strives to create a model for professional development in all areas of the arts, design, and relevant histories, to teach the diversity of culture and identity in the U.S. and its democratic values, and to prepare graduates for success in competitive and evolving communities through access to cutting-edge fabrication equipment, new critical and creative contexts, and opportunities for exhibition, publication, discussion, and critique linked with partners in Las Vegas and beyond.
About the Vegas Institute of Contemporary Engagement:
The Vegas Institute of Contemporary Engagement (V.I.C.E.) is a team of five graduate assistants in the UNLV department of art whose mission is to develop and implement art and education programming and projects for UNLV students and the Las Vegas community.
UNLV department of art instagram page @unlvtheear