Merely a month after bringing Contemporary Art to the North West Arkansas region for The Unexpected project Covered here), JUSTKIDS went at it again transforming Downtown Las Vegas in an open air art gallery for Life Is Beautiful Festival 4th edition inviting artists from all genres and countries. What started as an inspiration in 2013 to create a permanent display of urban art in DTLV is now a conﬁrmation. With more than 40 street pieces, the town is now painted and palpitating. While the growing success of Life is Beautiful adds a signiﬁcant cultural string to Las Vegas, it’s the art that ties the knot by staying in the streets when the music fades and the festival fences disappear. Old Downtown and modern art ﬁt together now like a odd couple that is everything but average.
This union of opposites creates a metaphor that help us to transfer our preconceived visual idea of Las Vegas into divergent yet harmonious sight. This change of perspective is made possible because the permanent, or long term, work on display – public installations, murals and sculptures – does not take away anything from the city (asides inspiration), but on the contrary it adds to its own peculiar vintage look and uniqueness. The city welcomes the art and the art dresses the city.
Adding to the already extensive list of world renowned artists that have contributed in the past editions of the festival (D*Face, Vhils, Roa, Banksy and a long line of etc.) this year included the Obey Giant himself, Shepard Fairey. A master in reverse psychology, Shepard uses the traditional political street propaganda to mock and apply his mechanisms. His mural “Corporate Welfare” hopes to inspire us to take a closer look on the intrinsic connection between faceless corporations and a nontransparent government in a questionable democracy. His piece stands at the most popular crossing on the Emergency Art Center building.
Right on the other side, French sensation Faﬁ threw up a massive wall at a ﬁrst class location on Fremont Street introducing her new comic Faﬁnette characters, that promise to come back stronger than ever. Empowering women in a scene that is perceived to be primarily run by men, and in a city that constantly show girls as eager vixens for the most stereotypical male fantasy, Faﬁ does a pirouette, changing fake for strong, posing for attitude and doing it with a bad girl demeanor that has fans world wide crazed.
On the same Street Tristan Eaton “Fear no Fate” mural inspired by Las Vegas glamour history revives our memory on a large wall through the eyes of a show girl coming straight from a 50’s cabaret. Reminiscing on the countless heartbreaks, adventures, sins and celebrations the city and his actors have survived. The style is versatile, the execution just perfect.
This year also welcome as a permanent installation Mike Ross “Big Rig Jig” seen last year at Banksy’s Dismaland. Challenging gravity this marvelous artwork stands in the courtyard of the Ferguson Motel which impressive vintage neon sign has been recently restored.
One of the biggest surprise this year comes from the Australian Artist Mark Drew who did his ﬁrst large scale mural, where the iconic image of America’s childhood and the famous verses of a legendary 90’s rap group, Wu Tang Clan, incorporate in the name of nostalgia. The opportune nexus between childhood innocence and juvenile rebellion collide adding not only a twist but a new ﬂavor to an already rich and prevalent recipe. This mural could have been easily named Peanuts and C.R.E.A.M.
Another eye-catching piece from this year comes from Contemporary Artist Crystal Wagner. She realized an enormous 120 feet long installation on a vintage motel right in the middle of the festival site. Accustomed to indoor installation, the American artist gladly took the challenging task to create under another set of conditions. Using her signature paper and fabric medium she manage to give life to giant web monster of color and form an createting a graceful disproportion.
Next to Crystal Wagner’s piece, Australian Artist Amanda Parer giant bunnies, entitled “Intrude”, was a main attraction. Festival goers were inspired to bask in the glow of these lighted, 25 feet inﬂatable rabbits that towered over the grassy area, founding a calming space to hug, snuggle, or relax with these lovable and fantastic creatures. Ask Alice…
Not too far, Felipe Pantone, the Argentinian optical phenomena, worked on a typical old school building and blessed Downtown with his ﬁrst 3D mural piece. Not only the artist designed, painted and built this mural but he added an entire architectonic lighting spectrum. Another layer of illusion is achieved with this trompe-l’œil and our visual expectation magniﬁed. Somewhere between an optical illusion, a delirious tilted 80’s computer, and a portal to another dimension this piece might look like a plausible futuristic vision from our past.
On the next building local contemporary artist Justin Favela delivered a shocking pink piñata motel, a highly impressive and detailed work done in less than a week. The typical mid-century architecture of the building just got a cultural twist and the result is simply awesome. The combination of paper and glue is clever, kitsh and beautiful. Mexican but much more. Favelas art is the representation of a mixture of heritages (Mexican father and Guatemalan mother) that has found in the artist a voice in witch they can fully express themselves.
On this same avenue, Spanish artist Dulk adapted his magical fantasy world to the state of Nevada recreating a new mythology inhabited by mechanical birds, ﬂying bulls among many other things. While the desert mountains lay the foundation for the artist unconscious scenario, fragmented and in reposition like a freudian dream. One must really take the time here to look and appreciate the beautiful obsession with details and colors that is displayed to grasp the immensity of this type of work. This powerful submersion into the oneiric to extract the complex material that forms the artist work is not only a challenge for consciousness but a feat of existence.
Norwegian artist Martin Whatson brought his Euro stencil technique and style to Downtown and left a large corner dressed with two murals. On one side a lonely police oﬃcer facing the overwhelming wall of color and old school graﬃti serves as a reminder-tribute to the legacy and subversive nature of this art form. Emphatic in the dynamic of juxtaposition, the artist uses a similar approach for his second mural. Depicting a hand pulling down a veil that reveals but does not clarify. We don’t know witch one is the real act of vandalism. The colorful graﬃti or the industrial grey wall that try’s to cover it.
Further North, Bezt from the duo Etam Cru a master in colossal style murals took over a ten story building and left us the dream of an heroic battle in stainless glass trough the mind of a drooling child. The artist that has raised the bar in level, quality, detail and size of his art work proof once again why he is considered by so many in the urban art world in such a high regard. In this piece we are the witness of an epic confrontation of men against monster. The courage of the human heart when facing such a disproportioned evil is something so sacred and eternal that we will never stop dreaming about it. The heroic act lives in the psyche of all and manifest itself in many forms. The analogy with the artist himself and his boldness when confronting the white wall where his workstruggle take place is obvious. Or would it be another battle that Bezt is suggesting?, indeed aren’t dragons awaken by man’s greed for treasures ﬁlled with coins?… Vegas! You have been warned!