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The CAC’s ‘Annual Juried Show’ trims down a bit, but still delivers

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Matthew Couper’s ‘Trickle-Down Theory’ is part of the CAC’s 22nd ‘Annual Juried Show,’ one of the best in recent years.

The venerable Las Vegas CAC is well into its Annual Juried Show, and for an exhibition that’s been through 22 iterations, it continues to surprise.

The Details

Annual Juried Show
Three and a half stars
Through June 18; Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m.; First Friday, 6-10 p.m.
Las Vegas Contemporary Art Center, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 120, 382-3886.

First, don’t let the color fool you. Sure, No. 22 nails the desert southwest color palette—and when I say nails I mean pummels. But as the storm of beige settles, subtler tones and curatorial strategies emerge, thanks to a well-considered installation.

It helps that juror Julie Sasse, chief curator at the Tucson Museum of Art, keeps a tight focus. Juried shows reflect the whims of the juror, whose curatorial concerns can range from an ironically skewed preference for naïve portraiture to an orchestrated critique of Las Vegas. This is a lean show compared to previous efforts, clocking in at a mere 33 pieces, versus the 80 or more seen as recently as last year. Sasse appears to have chosen simply what she felt was the best work and left it at that. Can you imagine?

The result is that there’s room to appreciate the thoughtful grouping of Martyn Bouskila’s animated, polka-dotted painting “STL #5” next to Suzan Shutan’s delicately charming pom-pom wall drawing “Bird Myth,” offset by Douglas Tausik’s undulating Henry Moore-like sculpture “Figure Struggling With in a Contour.” Refreshingly, 22 is a juried show that breathes.

The exhibition is slightly saturated with photography, but thankfully the work is inventive. Christine Pinney Karkow’s “Landscape 10 (night)” is narrowly transgressive. The entirely out-of-focus portrait of a gas station at night is inherently untrustworthy, a deeply unsettling image. Linda Alterwitz’s “Untitled #20” lingers indiscernibly between a print and a Xerox copy. William Hess’ over-turned semi, “Untitled (Truck Turnover),” heaves as if flesh and blood.

The small selection of figurative paintings looks really fresh nestled amongst all the photography, with local painter Catherine Cruse an exceptional standout. Matthew Couper’s “Trickle-Down Theory” is also eye-catching, a complex and illustrative allegorical painting dripping with dark humor.

While Sasse plays it fairly safe, there are some twists and turns that add interesting depth. Jordan Payne’s sculpture “One Hundred Eighty Pounds,” Greg Stahl’s “Sketchbook 2010” and Colour Maisch’s Eva Hesse-inspired “Hang Up” are among the more challenging—and rewarding—inclusions.

Locals do a little risk taking of their own. Painter Susanne Forestieri abandons figuration for dramatic abstraction, while Diane Bush expands her mixed-media repertoire with a lovely ocean-inspired sound piece. In “X,” Philip Denker’s obsessive hand-drawn geometry takes on new life as a disembodied figure floating in vibrant orange.

While you may not agree with all her choices, Sasse doesn’t pull any punches. The 22nd Annual Juried Show is straightforward, and easily the best CAC juried show in recent memory.

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Danielle Kelly

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