Las Vegas

Claes Oldenburg

University of Nevada

Las Vegas is a city whose garishness numbs perception, but the surrounding desert manifests the most subtle visual qualities. Claes Oldenburg’s recently erected The Flashlight both reflects and comments on these contrasts.

Set in a plaza between Artemus Ham Concert Hall and Judy Bayley Theatre at the University of Nevada campus, the 38-foot-high sculpture consists of 24 3/4 inch-thick Cor-Ten fins welded vertically around a circular tube. In a well at the base of the upside-down flashlight are 24 fluorescent lightbulbs, which create a carefully contained dim glow—a contrast to the omnidirectional blitz of city light. Indeed, when Oldenburg turned on the lights in a night ceremony on March 12, the event was singularly undramatic.

Most Nevada artists choose not to live in Las Vegas, and its few artist inhabitants eschew urban imagery in their work; the city is just too overwhelming. Oldenburg’s

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