Thursday, June 11, 2015

Viva Las Vegas!

One of my favorite art encounters of Earthworks Road Trip Volume Two, featured James Turrell's Akhob (Egyptian for "pure water). We were not allowed to photograph it and the first two images below are by Florian Holzherr (via).

Akhob "is a series of rooms designed to cause peripheral and visual disarray through the intensity of 900 color-changing LED lights. With no apparent edges to walls or ceilings, the exhibit eliminates one’s ability to comprehend depth, providing a mystifying sense of infinity."

To view the installation, one must make an appointment with the Louis Vuitton flagship store and arrive on time (they were adamant about the latter). We were escorted into an elevator and deposited into a dark space reminiscent of a hotel lobby. Guides dressed in white introduced the artwork and James Turrell's other projects and then led us around a corner to the room above (far darker in real life). We sat on the bench on the right, removed our shoes and phones, placing them in wicker baskets, and ascended the stairs. The rooms were green when we entered and exited.

As with most of Turrell's artworks, the color slowly changed from warm to cool. In Holzherr's image above, the man is standing in front of a six foot drop and the entry stairs are in the extreme foreground. We stayed long enough to watch the edges of the walls disappear. Although I have never experienced this in person, I thought it could be similar to standing on a ship's prow in the middle of fog and seeing nothing but soft blue light and clouds.

Outside the Vuitton store in the Shops as Crystals, we were able to photograph another Turrell installation which our guide informed us was "broken" (the color stayed the same rather than shifting).

We took the elevators into the installation and even saw ...

... a magenta and purple cast sprinkler head on the ceiling (a small detail reminiscent of the plant growing in the Flavin installation at Chinati).

It was no surprise that swimming pools were high on the Las Vegas agenda. The weather was not as hot as anyone predicted over the course of two weeks and unfortunately, Las Vegas was no exception. Envision the above as a body of water one would jump into quickly and immediately search for warmth on the other side of the rocks. We spent time in all four of the Excalibur swimming pools...

... found our way into two at Luxor ...

... and later that evening, were asked to leave one at Caesar's Palace.

We visited the Neon Museum at dusk (and unlike a handful of inebriated people on the tour, were not dismissed because we could barely stand up straight). A few of the signs were restored while others were illuminated from multicolored lights on the path.

Here were some of my favorite details from the hour long tour.

The final two images remind me of the era my grandfather and his wife visited Las Vegas, sending postcards and the occasional $1 Eisenhower coin. The Strip's history rotates on a regular basis and we learned from the tour guide that the Flamingo will be the next to be demolished. The Neon Museum needs a few more acres to cover all the signs that will be donated in the future. In the meantime, it is one of the best places to see decades of history condensed into a small area.

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