Before there was a scene in Las Vegas, there was a scene in Las Vegas.
Not in just the shimmering, drink slamming, dice rolling, pink-fur bikini with a rhinestone choker kind of way – that’s the real Las Vegas scene that you may think of – but in the urban art scene as well.
You can see both families of aesthetics at play here on the pages of the new hardcover “Street Art Las Vegas” (Smallworks Press) by William Shea and Patrick Lai, local photographers who have studied the city’s scene closely. Presenting documentation primarily from the 2010s, it is a pretty complete overview of the art-on-the-streets divided into geographical sectors of the city.
In very personal texts and essays that reference local developments and flavors, the authors give a sense of the changing political and social dynamics in the city. Notably in such a short period of a decade you learn that popular tastes, behaviors, shifts in demographics, and legal regulations evolve relatively quickly regarding art in the streets – in a city where presentation and image are often paramount.
No surprise, Vegas can take on the air of spectacle.
“With the increased growth of East Fremont Street, the Arts District became a regular destination for landscape and portrait photographers. Many visitors began to utilize the painted walls as backdrops for graduation and group photos and were willing to pay the extra cost just to use the property,” write the authors to describe the near frantic adoration that surrounded the new murals in one part of town at a certain point.
Despite what appears to be a commercial element that bends the aesthetic landscape away from local talent, the choices of work here are additive, good quality, contextual and well framed.
As long-time urban explorers and artists, we’re attracted to the tales of stuff off the beaten path, which they preserve in a chapter called “Outer Limits”:
“From the back-city streets to the deepest corner of the desert, the vast landscape surrounding the city creates and environment that continues to amaze even the most experience art seekers. Hidden from public view, large-scale projects can be discovered for those willing to venture out, explore and get dirty. In most cases, day trips to these areas yield the greatest finds for those looking for something beyond your average wall.”