Gallery space Z’Boutique at the Zappos headquarters is displaying work by Laurens Tan, a Holland-born, Australian artist living in Beijing, until Tuesday. “Birth/ Dan Sheng” explores how design and cultural shifts connect using three-dimensional multimedia. Tan had a long stint in Las Vegas researching the city’s architecture and design history for his doctoral thesis. He is the first in an ongoing series of international artists with a Las Vegas connection at Z’Boutique. DTLV caught up with the veteran artist, and discussed his work and its Las Vegas influence.
What do you want viewers to take away from your exhibition?
That they can read the more vital signals under the apparent humor of the ‘puzzle’ that often people see in my work.
What about your work do you think people least notice but has a closeness to you?
My work often may look like a puzzle, which requires a moment of thought or scrutinizing. The work is not meant to obscure. The elements are there to set the mood, to open channels of communication, and are often new thoughts or new combinations of common thought.
How has Las Vegas influenced your work?
I’d spent the decade of 1995 to 2005 as a pilgrim to the Vegas culture, and the resulting thesis, “The Architecture of Risk”, was an extensive and thorough study of Vegas as capital of, not only gambling, but of a generator of a very identifiable and prominent sector of Americana in architecture, graphics, industrial design and visual culture in general.
What Vegas faces now is also what faces other culturally and visually prominent cities in the world. In particular, Beijing, where I’d spent the next decade working and living as an artist. I’m perplexed by the insidious forces of global ‘blanding’ and to me, both cities are in the perfect target for these forces. The works shown at Zappos are three statements about the plight of the loss of identity in Beijing.
What has your Las Vegas experience been like?
After 2011, I was invited to exhibit my work in some 13 events in the U.S. in galleries, art fairs and museums in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Lakeland, Florida. At that point, I felt I needed a base [in the United States] and where else [better] but Vegas—the place I had grown to know well over the years.
I’ve been here at the closures of the Guggenheim, the LV Art Museum and such vital contemporary spaces as Dust and more recently Trifecta Gallery. Over the past year or so, I have met and befriended many artists here and have found much in common [with them], in terms of what function art performs in society and what priorities lie before us in terms of the role art plays in communicating our concerns as well as our delights. In particular, the interest I’m sharing from my experiences in China is the role of observer and chronicler of the unique visual culture in our immediate environment.