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Lovely connection: Photos pair with paintings at Brett Wesley

Image
An acrylic painting by Bob Stang

Brett Wesley Gallery has developed a rewarding and reliable pattern of exhibits that alternate between pop-tinged, illustrative painting and borderline commercial photography. With current show Connections, the gallery takes a fresh approach to these predilections. The result is a sprightly pairing with unexpected affinities.

Last month the gallery featured Life and Times, a selection of black and white photos by Las Vegas’ Diane Bush, taken in the U.K. in the 1970s. Fortunately, the gallery has extended it. Bush focused her lens on a working-class culture straddling the past and future during an uncertain present. Her vibrantly candid photos bring to life the youth of Quadrophenia and Monty Python as they struggle against the long shadow of WWII and the dystopic aftershock of the ’60s.

The Details

Connections
Three and a half stars
Through March 26
Brett Wesley Gallery
1112 S. Casino Center Blvd.
433-4433

In “Pensioner’s Afternoon Outing, London,” an elderly couple dances beneath a clock, an aching study of lives suspended, outpaced by time. “Truants, London” offers a different view, staring up into the faces of three would-be hoodlums trying hard to be scary, posturing to hide their fear. The images are a terrific example of the photo trends of the time, playing with authenticity and gaze while dipping a toe into gritty realism. More importantly, ’70s England is just plain cool.

Bush’s photos share a surprising rapport with the historical reveries of California painter Bob Stang. He reclaims and remixes bits and pieces of colonial Americana: shadow portraits, tree stumps, log cabins. These icons float in pastel dreamscapes of flora and fauna, swirling decorative spaghetti and graphic doodles. Upended and unmoored in this Ikea reverie, the imagery’s meaning wanes as existential anxiety waxes.

Relegated to the realm of bluebirds and owls, the log cabin becomes more motif than symbol for American tenacity. The neutral palette and general “prettiness” lends the look and feel of early American wallpaper—and it works. These breezy acrylics harbor a low-level unease: Is this who we are? Is this our historical inheritance? Or the perfect pattern for a shower curtain?

Stang plays it fairly safe in execution, but there are rewarding moments. The pairing of “B.Y.O.” with “Outpost” is particularly interesting. Fields of open space built up with a chalky, putty-like consistency make for a pleasing journey across the surface of “B.Y.O.,” while “Outpost” incorporates little painterly presents for patient eyes.

Each body of work holds a tinge of regret and a dusting of nostalgia, rooted in innocence that stubbornly holds onto hope. Hovering between winter and spring, Connections is a refreshing metaphor for the season.

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Danielle Kelly

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