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Fine Art

The Bellagio Gallery’s latest show feels a bit tight, but it’s not bad

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Fairfield Porter’s “Sun on Rough Seas” is one of the highlights of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art’s latest show, “A Sense of Place: Landscapes From Monet to Hockney.”

It’s easy to become jaded about Las Vegas’ cultural options, or perceived lack thereof. I’m as guilty as the next gal of passing on a show/film series/concert/etc. for any number of unjustifiable reasons, usually because I’m looking for something I can find anywhere else but here.

The Details

A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney
Three stars
Through January 8, $10-$15
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, 693-7871

The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, for example.

The Bellagio itself is a bastion of old-world pleasure, all fantastical gardens and Chihuly chandeliers. It’s decadent but modest, cozy and opulent, a gilded architectural lily nestled in a Boulevard block of black glass and steel. This feeling of well-appointed warmth extends into the Gallery of Fine Art, and the current exhibition is no exception.

A Sense of Place is a collection of landscape paintings on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, with selections from MGM Resorts’ own International Fine Art Collection. It has a star-studded cast of celebrated names designed to wow the crowd: Chagall, Monet, Frankenthaler, Boudin, etc. It’s the less familiar names, though, that negotiate the tradition of landscape in entirely unforgettable ways. Overall, the exhibition abandons the sublime for more prosaic explorations of landscape as altered by humankind.

Ana Mendieta was a Cuban artist whose feminist politics were deeply embedded in her performance art and sculpture. For the series of prints “Silueta,” Mendieta makes imprints of her body on the beach, impressions that are slowly eroded by a rising tide.

Similarly mindful of temporality and man’s symbiotic relationship to nature, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s video “Juggernaut” interrupts long beautiful vistas of a salt mine with the crunching wheels of trucks tearing it apart.

Given the small size of the galleries and a consistently ambitious curatorial scope, BGFA exhibitions can be a tight squeeze. Their success often hinges on key relationships between works hung close together. In that respect, Place misses the mark and feels more than a little overhung.

One glaring exception is a bold, idiosyncratic trio of huge paintings. Martha Diamond’s juicy “Black, White, & Gray Cityscape #2” is an expressionistic counterpoint to Joel Janowitz’ ghostly urban landscape, “Playground #1.” Upending the two is German painter Roman Lipski’s unforgettable “Untitled,” an acid-toned urban arboretum.

Most unforgettable might be a small Fairfield Porter. I love Porter but was initially unimpressed by “Sun on Rough Sea.” After several rounds through the gallery, though, Porter’s painting emerged as a visual voice of unwavering clarity and passion.

I visited BGFA during one of its Art & Wine events, a monthly tour of the gallery that pairs fine art with liquid courage and lively dialogue. Visitors come for the wine and stay for the art: What a wonderful thing you can’t find anywhere but here.

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Danielle Kelly

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