An Edge Against The House
Essay by Suzanne Patterson:
The public we meet in these pictures may believe, or prefer to believe, that they have a winning touch which could negate the power of the casino – giving them an edge against the house.
These images capture the topography of the enclosed and sanitised world of Vegas, which is still strangely attractive and hypnotic for the visitor.
Yet Wetherill is aware that for all the seemingly democratic optimism of Las Vegas for the people who frequent the hotels, shows, and casinos there is no such thing as a permanent winning streak and that eventually the house must win. There is a poignancy to this realisation, which has resonances for life in general- mortality loses out to the inevitable parameters of death.
But for now, the people in these pictures are winning- enjoying their moment in the sun.
Engaged Couple shows one such pair. Here we have a newly engaged couple who are not quite in the flush of youth, wearing white sports clothing. They look tanned, clean, hopeful. They smile at the camera – they seem to be at an optimistic point in their lives. However easy it may be to be scathing about the fantasy aspect of these Vegas dreamers, it is clear that Wetherill has a more forgiving touch. In fact the composition of Engaged Couple betrays a kind of tenderness for the subject matter. On the path edged by pansies, the woman’s foot appears to touch the ground hesitantly, almost girlishly. There is something engaging about this unmannered pose.
Nature is often at odds with its prefabricated version in this environment. In Foliage we see real leaves encroaching onto concrete flooring, their shadows seeming to lurch forward, grasping. In Refurbishing the Volcano we see the bizarrely polite notice telling the public that the ‘volcano’ is closed until a certain date, and that the management apologise for any inconvenience this closure has caused. If only catastrophes in nature were similarly controllable! Perhaps as a reference to this point, in Seigfried and Roy Plaza we see a monumental bronze edifice portraying the two magicians with a huge tiger in the middle – one of their show animals. In reality, we know that one of the men was savaged by the tiger and the animal is obviously now retired. In contrast to this violent episode, Casino Lions are so lethargic and disengaged that they seem to have lost the will to live. They slump under the spotlights, cordoned off by the glazing, demoralised by the slot machines and the dazed punters who hope for a spark of recognition, movement – maybe even just a hint of animal ferocity.
However, for the most part nature remains contained and organised for our enjoyment. The water here is recycled endlessly around the city in a kind of liquid loop – yet no-one would know this as they take a gondola upon the electric blue ‘Grand Canal’, looking at the escalatored ‘Rialto Bridge’, breathing in the pervasively sweet manufactured air.
There are no clocks in Vegas, time has no marker. All we have to do is float by, as in the picture Lazy River.
Suzanne Patterson 2011 by Suzanne Patterson – previous published works include contributions to ArtWorld Magazine, essays for Saatchi at Underwood Street Gallery, Timeout.
Previous work from Vicky Wetherill includes ‘Peep-Show’ (2002) published by Dewi Lewis, also solo show with Tom Blau Gallery, and various group shows including Dazed & Confused Gallery.