Oldenburg / Van Bruggen Flashlight - Las Vegas, NV

Melanie Coffee

Vegas has no culture you say?

From oldenburgvanbruggen.com:
The site in Las Vegas for which we were commissioned to make a sculpture in February 1978, a small plaza between the Artemus W. Ham concert hall and the Judy Bailey Theater, on the campus of the University of Nevada, is far from the illuminated Strip of the city's night life. Coosje van Bruggen, especially, appreciated this distance, which eventually became an important part of the sculpture's concept. However, it didn't start that way.

Because the sculpture was expected to attract audiences to the performance center at night as well as by day, a subject suitable to both darkness and light was required. A flashlight was chosen, the sort that can be stood on end with its beam shining up, a sculpture to be "turned on" at night, like the searchlights and light spectaculars of the Strip in the background and, in a smaller, human scale, like the object carried by an usher showing members of the audience to their seats.

(Unfortunately, a redesign occurred and the Flashlight does not beam upward, but down into the ground instead. Many have equated this with the state of higher education in Nevada - particularly at UNLV - LVL).

Scaled in relation to the architecture on either side of the plaza, the Flashlight, installed in March 1981, stands thirty eight feet six inches and, made entirely of steel, weighs 74,000 pounds. Non-reflective paint is used on the surface of the sculpture in order to produce the densest black possible, deepened further by the shadows between the fins. In the bright desert sunlight, the intense blackness of the sculpture extends a piece of the night into the day.

The Flashlight was the first Large-Scale Project to bear the signatures of both artists. At the completion of the installation, we were hoisted to the top -- actually the bottom -- of the Flashlight to sign our names which were then welded to the steel.

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