Tilting the Basin Realigns Contemporary Art in Nevada

Thanks to JK Russ for sharing her Huffington Post article about “Tilting The Basin: Contemporary Art of Nevada,” the expansive group exhibition which opened earlier this month at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. We’re republishing it on Settlers + Nomads with new images courtesy NMA and contributions from Las Vegas artists. Russ is one of the artists in the exhibition and a regular contributor on huffingtonpost.com.


From the Sky Plaza atop the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, a panoramic view unfolds across to the Carson Range in the distance. Against this dramatic backdrop, an elegantly attired fox figure mingles with the curators, artists and guests of the newly opened Tilting the Basin exhibition. Thirty-five artists from across the State of Nevada feature in the show that aims to bridge “what some consider to be a divide between northern and southern Nevada communities”.

A number of recent smaller-scale projects have been developed with similar intentions. In 2010 the Geographical Divides: Finding Common Ground print exchange curated by Anne Hoff and Candace Nicol brought together 16 artists working throughout Nevada. In 2013 along with five other Las Vegas-based artists, I made my first journey to Reno to participate in the interactive performance event The Traveling Miracle Show.

Encouraging cultural exchange is a large component of Tilting the Basin. A number of the southern Nevada artists are scheduled to host talks, workshops and interactive events in Reno and Carson City over the duration of the show. Then in 2017, a reprised version of the exhibition will take place in Las Vegas, offering similar opportunities for the visiting northern artists.


Katie Lewis, drawing on paper (image courtesy the artist and Nevada Museum of Art)
Katie Lewis, detail from her 2067-2167 II NE drawing series, 2016. (Image courtesy the artist and Nevada Museum of Art)


Are there definitive connections in the work being produced across such a large State with a very divided population? Co-curators Nevada Museum of Art Curatorial Director and Curator of Contemporary Art JoAnne Northrup and art advisor Michele Quinn, of MCQ Fine Art Advisory in Las Vegas have visited more than fifty artist studios in the process of putting together the show. They do not see a singular aesthetic permeating artists’ work, but conclude “The distinct personality of Nevada, informed equally by nature and culture, has seeped into the work in the exhibition.”


Rachel Stiff, Gravel Pit, pastel on paper (courtesy the artist and Nevada Museum of Art)
Rachel Stiff, Gravel Pit, pastel on paper, 2016. (Image courtesy the artist and Nevada Museum of Art)


During a panel discussion with a number of the focus artists, Northrup and Quinn ask questions designed to further explore how the nature and culture of Nevada influence their work. Both Katie Lewis and Rachel Stiff working at opposite ends of the State, talk about the meditative experience gained when taking walks through the wide open spaces that becomes an important aspect of their work process. Brent Sommerhauser sees his experience creating props for Cirque du Soleil as having a close connection to how he works in his own studio and Justin Favela describes his fun-loving fiesta works as being cultural interventions within the framework of white-dominated institutions.


Brent Sommerhauser, The Well, glass (image courtesy the artist)
Brent Sommerhauser, installation view, The Well, series of unique blown glass sculptures, 2014. (Photo courtesy the artist)


Justin Favela's Family Fiesta at Michael Heizer's Double Negative located in the Moapa Valley on Mormon Mesa near Overton, Nevada on May 9, 2015.
Justin Favela’s Family Fiesta at Michael Heizer’s Double Negative located in the Moapa Valley on Mormon Mesa near Overton, Nevada on May 9, 2015. (Image courtesy the artist and Nevada Museum of Art, photo credit Mikayla Whitmore)


In my own travels through Nevada I have seen the casino culture, the spectacular desert environment and the large-scale land art projects it contains as constant elements in both the north and south. However I’ve experienced some real cultural differences too.  On my first trip north to Reno, I was immediately seduced by the slower-paced pedestrian and bicycle-friendly river city with its abundance of character buildings and pervasive sense of community.

My second visit only reinforces those initial impressions. An invitation extended to the visiting artists to attend an after-party at a nearby studio complex offers opportunities for further connections to be forged. The friendly welcome, nearby racks of recycled bicycles and best of all – the spacious and affordable workspace – are all appreciated and commented on by the Las Vegas artists. I recall David Ryan’s remarks at the close of the panel discussion, “Look out Reno – we’re all moving here!” 


Tilting the Basin: Contemporary Art of Nevada runs August 5 – October 23, 2016 and features Chris Bauder, Megan Berner, Rebekah Bogard, Mark Brandvik, Galen Brown, Erik Burke, JW Caldwell, Nate Clark, Timothy Conder, Matthew Couper, Joseph DeLappe and Pete Froslie, Gig Depio, Russell Dudley, Jeffrey Erickson, Justin Favela, Jen Graham, Sush Machida Gaikotsu, Ahren Hertel, Brent Holmes, Katty Hoover, Shawn Hummel, Eunkang Koh, Wendy Kveck, Nick Larson, Katie Lewis, Sarah Lillegard, Omar Pierce, Krystal Ramirez, JK Russ, David Ryan, David Sanchez Burr, Sean Slattery, Brent Sommerhauser, Rachel Stiff.


JK RUSS is a New Zealand-born artist and curator who relocated to Las Vegas in 2010. Based downtown, she enjoys being walking distance from galleries, cafes and live performance venues and is often seen with camera in hand, documenting local arts events.


JK Russ, from her Desert Birdlife Night series, mix-media collage, 2016
JK Russ, from her Desert Birdlife Night series, mix-media collage, 2016. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)


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Katty Hoover, Water Series 2, c-print, 2008. (Photo Wendy Kveck)


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Chris Bauder, Untitled (Pink Balloon Box), latex paint, balloons, LED lighting system, acrylic and wood display, 2016. (Photo Wendy Kveck)


detail, Bauder (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)
detail, Bauder (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)


Shawn Hummel, Roys Tangent, (image courtesy the artist)
Shawn Hummel, Roy’s Tangent, acrylic paint and Prismacolor on baltic birch plywood, 60″ x 60″ x 1″ 2016. (Image courtesy the artist)


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Installation view, from left, work by David Ryan, Chris Bauder, Katty Hoover, JK Russ. (Photo JK Russ)


Tilting The Basin
Installation view, David Ryan paintings. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)


Sean Slattery, Shell Lake, pigment ink and acrylic ink on canvas, 36″ x 48″ 2016. (Image courtesy the artist)


Galen Brown, detail from his installation, Trees, mixed media, Christmas trees, 1989-continuing. (Image courtesy the artist and Nevada Museum of Art)


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Gig Depio, Bridge the Gap, oil on canvas, 72″ x 96″, 2014. (Image courtesy the artist)


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Brent Holmes, disaster, tinsel, acrylic, oil, graphite, spray paint, liquid rubber, on paper, 63″ x 44″ 2015. (Photo Krystal Ramirez)


Matthew Couper, detail from Mother's Milk Aquifer, oil on unstretched canvas, 2016. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)
Matthew Couper, detail of Mother’s Milk Aquifer, oil on unstretched canvas, 2016. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)


Installation view, Rebekah Bogard (front) and from left- Jen Graham, Sarah Lillegard and Krystal Ramirez. (Photo Wendy Kveck)
Installation view, Rebekah Bogard (front) and from left- Jen Graham, Sarah Lillegard and Krystal Ramirez. (Photo Wendy Kveck)


Rebekah Bogard, Untitled, ceramic, 2016. (Image courtesy the artist)


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Sarah Lillegard, Root That Mountain Down (II), fibers and leather and salvaged jacket constructions Riding the Rail and Until Desert Meets the Hills. (Photo Wendy Kveck)


All images and artwork created by Krystal Ramirez
Krystal Ramirez, Emptiness, archival rag paper, ink, 3′ x 1′ 2009. (Photo Krystal Ramirez)


Wendy Kveck, installation view of her Untitled Meurent series, photo collage, 2016. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)
Wendy Kveck, installation view, Untitled Meurent series, photo collage, 2016. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)


Tilting The Basin
Rachel Stiff, installation view. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)


Tilting The Basin
Installation view, Tilting the Basin. (Photo Mikayla Whitmore)


Mark Brandvik,
Mark Brandvik, West Falia, enamel on hand-cut panels, 105″ x 178″ 2016. (Image courtesy the artist)


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View of Joseph DeLappe and Pete Froslie installation, 30 of 424 – Mir Ali, 2015-16. (Photo Krystal Ramirez)


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Artist Rachel Stiff with J.W. Caldwell’s mural, Time Heals All Wounds, in the Primm Theater Lobby. (Photo JK Russ)


Title image: Installation view, works by (from left) Galen Brown, Sean Slattery and  Timothy Conder, Nick Larsen and Omar Pierce. (Photo by Krystal Ramirez)


Read Kristen Peterson’s article on the exhibition for Settlers + Nomads here.


Posted by Wendy Kveck

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