East Fremont Project (2011)
Suite of seven hand-pulled screenprints
Set of 20 key fobs, paint, digitally printed decals
Where better to study geography than Las Vegas, where you can find yourself in Paris, Venice, Rio, Morocco, Egypt and New York — all in one afternoon? Vegas is a surreal place, and provides no end of inspiration to me for writing, graphic design and fine arts alike. But my interest isn’t limited to the glitzy tourist traps; it also lies in areas that reveal the city’s lesser-known history, areas that are not at all concerned with a sanitized, tourist-friendly image. The East Fremont Project documents one such neighborhood in a variety of media. East Fremont Street was, in its heyday, the gateway to downtown Las Vegas for travelers, and is home to an amazing collection of Atomic-Age-era motels and vintage signage. Far from the hotel-casinos in the shadow of the “Fremont Street Experience” (a high-investment Downtown tourist attraction built in 1995), East Fremont remains out of reach of the downtown rehab and gentrification push, and these architectural gems make do as hourly red-light motels and low-rent flophouses, rife with crime, drugs and prostitution. The buildings and signage have lost their glitter, but now stand as a testament to the need for affordable housing and sustainable jobs in the city.
As recently as May 2010, the Las Vegas City Council has approved development plans that call for the razing of many of these motels; in testimony to the Council, development consultants have called the stretch of motels “a blight” and declared that they “would rather see vacant lots there.” Other concerned individuals and organizations have spoken up in opposition, favoring plans to rehabilitate these historic buildings, or at least to save and relocate some of the most heralded architectural features and signage. The “bookish” key fob installation gathers together excerpts of those arguments, plus additional bits of information about East Fremont from other sources including TV interviews, news articles, travel guides, police reports and other media sources. The work is modeled after an internet news aggregator or RSS feed — but with a decidedly Atomic-Age motel twist. The coordinating suite of seven hand-pulled screenprints reveals details of the area’s vintage signage and architectural features which capture the essence of the Atomic era, but also reveal the modern decline of these structures. The imagery is based on photographs taken by the artist in 2009.