If you can't get enough of the bold, primary color-dashed works of 20th Century contemporary artists, then the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art has even more incentive for you to visit its current exhibition, "Classic Contemporary: Lichtenstein, Warhol & Friends." Available for viewing today, the gallery has added Andy Warhol's iconic "Soup Cans" as well as three new prints from Roy Lichtenstein's "Cathedral" series.
"Classic Contemporary" features some of the best (and most beloved) representations of the minimalist and pop art styles of the 1960s and '70s. These works, often depicting simple shapes in bold colors and offered without context, arose as a reaction to the seriousness of abstract expressionism. Some artists, such as Warhol and Lichtenstein, drew inspiration from the worlds of advertising, comic books and the mechanical process of printing itself. Others found their muses in architecture, politics and psychology.
However, to this day, the artistic merit – if not the aesthetic merit – of these works is left open to wide interpretation. Take Frank Stella's "Sinjerli I," part of his "protractor" series that also includes "Sabra III," another exhibition feature. In essence, it's a colorful circle, halved. Did Stella mean for it to be rumination on the ancient Hittite city of Sinjerli, whose two walls formed a perfect circle? Or simply an experiment in color and shape – something pleasant to behold, but otherwise vacant?
That's a question that can be easily applied to any of the works on display in "Classic Contemporary." From Ellsworth Kelly's primary color forms of "Red Blue Green" and Robert Mangold's deceptively uncomplicated "Red X Painting" to Sol LeWitt's intricate wood sculpture "Floor Piece #4" and Dan Flavin's fluorescent-lit "Untitled (To Marianne)," the significance of the artwork on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is best left to the subjectivity of its viewer.
However, the lasting influence of these works on not just the world of art, but fashion, graphic design, music and pop culture at large, is inarguable. Warhol has become a brand as strong today as it was 30 years ago. Lichtenstein's four-color explorations have not only fueled poster and postcard sales for decades, but have also come full circle in the medium of his original inspiration. From the marketing iconography of MTV in its early years to the modern-day "lift and transfer" methods of Shepard Fairey, there is no questioning the effect of the pop art movement's impact upon our everyday lives.
And if for no other reason, that should be justification enough to see these modern masters up close. “Classic Contemporary” is on view at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art through September 7. Las Vegas residents have even more incentive with the announcement last month of discounted admission on Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. -- $8 per person – as well as extended hours of operation. Additionally, every third Wednesday, locals can participate in a curatorial tour of the show led by either BGFA Director Tarissa Tiberti or Curatorial Advisor Michele C. Quinn.
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