1993: Dike Blair, 49c Breakfast
December 5, 1993
Anyone who likes to search the archives of the CAC will have seen, far down in the list of titles, this terse reference to a one-night performance that took place more than twenty years ago: "49 Cent Breakfast – December 5, 1993." Blair was UNLV's artist in residence during the 1993 Fall semester, and during his tenure there, he organized a pop up art event featuring the work of both grads and undergrads. The CAC – that last C stood for Collective in those days, not Center – was located in a gallery called the Temporary Contemporary on Maryland Parkway, in the same strip mall as Paymon's Mediterranean Cafe.
Different people suggested a name for the event. Mark Brandvik came up with the winner. "It was based," he writes, "on the actual price of many casino graveyard breakfast specials offered in those days ..."
"These," he says, "are the names I recall:
'Plus most people in the Vegas art scene at that time were in attendance (Dave Hickey, Libby Lumpkin, Mary Warner, Charles Morgan, Fred Sigman, others)."
Everyone in attendance had to navigate through Mark Brandvik's "Mr. Potty" (1993) which consisted of three porta-potties with the backs cut out that served as a gateway to the gallery. Robert Nelson along with his artist collaborator were firing pies at the wall with a catapult with the assistance of Miss Pie Toss. The pig's head being carried on a platter in the picture above -- that was fired at the wall too. Ethan Acres' work was an installation that included a washing machine and blow up dolls drying on a clothesline.
It was the early '90s and that was the way things were.
Thanks to Brandvik for all of these pictures.
BLAIR: Like most everyone, I find myself visually stimulated when I leave my usual environment, so many of the earlier gouaches are based on images I'd take at vacation destinations, like Las Vegas or Disneyland, or on the roads in between.
STILLMAN: Did the materials you began to use in the mid-'90s for the carpet and light sculptures also come from those kinds of places and experiences?
BLAIR: There is a paradoxical overlap between the paintings and the sculptures: they get at the same information in different ways. I might have a painting of a casino interior and a light sculpture that includes casino carpet. The painting uses deadpan illusionistic rendering, whereas the sculpture is an abstraction, conceived in a constructivist form. One is a near-photorealist representation of a subject that may contain a certain ambience; the other is a concrete manifestation that, among other things, tries to get at a similar ambience. I tend to work in binaries, and they show up not just between one practice and another, but within each of my practices. It always seems to me that if you make a decision to do one thing that the opposite decision makes just as much sense.
(from an interview with Steel Stillman,In the Studio: Dike Blair, Art in America, September 1, 2009)
Blair received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1977. In 2009 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. UNLV invited him back to Las Vegas in 2012 to speak at its Spring lecture series.
Five years after 49c Breakfast he held a one-man show at the Charleston Heights Art Center, but what was it?
Contributors D.K. Sole and Wendy Kveck
Original video footage shot by Mike Fees.
Corrections: Mark Brandvik pointed out that a previous version of this post incorrectly credited an artist and mischaracterized some of the events. The post has been modified accordingly.
In the monthly CIRCA posts, we begin to rough out a catalogue of Las Vegas art history by conducting local and long-distance interviews and researching virtual and physical archives. The posts will not necessarily be investigated or collated in chronological order. Suggestions, ideas, and information are all welcome via email or in the comments section.