BWW Feature: LOST VEGAS: TIM BURTON At The Neon Museum Las Vegas
Las Vegas Neon Museum welcomes "frightmaster auteur" Tim Burton and his phantasmagorical, wide-eyed-sans-irides, zany creations, now on display amidst retired casino marquees, in an over-the-top exhibition, "Lost Vegas: Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum," generously funded in part by the Engelstad Foundation through February 15, 2020.
These revered large-scale mostly neon signs serve as specific settings for Tim's fine art and clever 3-D projections as homage to, as he says,
"Las Vegas, a place where everyday rules seem not to apply."
Indeed, to old-timers, Vegas is now a bit of a "Lost Vegas" as this installation's title acknowledges.
The cult classic "Mars Attacks," filmed in Las Vegas circa 1996, has exterior shots of old landmarks that bring golden-elders to tears-in-their-beers! This kitchy, funny, cult-classic movie has a casino imploding, which poetically underscores local senior sentiment. "Filming the demolition of the Landmark Hotel for "Mars Attacks!"
was one of the more powerful moments of my life," Burton wrote in his artist statement. This fun film also brought attention to the signage at the original unilluminated "Boneyard" out of which the Neon Museum evolved.
Tim visited Las Vegas many times as a child traveling with his parents from their home in Burbank, California. Burton never forgot the sights, lights, sounds, clowns, smells, bells, dings, blinged-out feathered dancers, and colorful flood of humanity.
This whimsical, goofy, gorey, delightful, playful, spaced-out, site-specific installation, from this unique American film director, producer, artist, writer and stop-motion animator, is expected to be as popular as his recordbreaking-attendance show at New York Museum of Modern Art-- which also toured Melbourne, Toronto, Los Angeles, Paris, and Seoul.
A recent different show for Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City also drew record crowds last year.
The entire Neon Museum, not just the signs, serves as inspiration for many of the never before seen works that interact cleverly with the museum's treasures. Of course, some of these iconic signs appeared in "Mars Attacks!"
The exhibition winds through the Museum, which includes the outdoor exhibition known as the Neon Boneyard that features more than 200 signs, several of which are restored, as well as the Visitors Center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby in addition to, "Brilliant!" a light-projection exhibit in the North Gallery. Many sculptures are tiny and blend into the crowded signage landscape. The big silver dome display has tiny paintings, sculptures and microscopes inside viewing boxes. The best time to appreciate this outdoor exhibit is in the evening when the lights go on, but say viewing allows sun shadows to play up the colors of the characters more.
Burton's trademark mix of humor and horror, sublime and insane, shine in these blockbusters and classics: Beetlejuice (1988); Batman (1989); the semi-autobigraphical Edward Scissorhands (1990); Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993); Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005); Alice in Wonderland (2010) and the wonderfully otherworldly (2016) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
Jenny He, Burton's curator, who for 10 years has spearheaded his museum exhibitions says, "this is an opportunity for Tim to present work that we've really never presented before. "Lost Vegas" is primarily a sculptural and digital installation."
"Large-scale sculptures will be staged throughout the museum and at the City of Las Vegas' Boneyard Park. The exhibition will be very much in the tone of being mesmerized and spectacular...About 80 percent of what visitors will see was created specifically for The Neon Museum," says Ms. He.
Among the largest works will be a 40-by-20-foot grid displaying a collage of neon created by Burton, as well as, a 40-foot sign-tower-- which is the exhibition's centerpiece.
In 1997 Burton published the book,"The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories," featuring a character named Stainboy (the subject of The World of Stainboy, a 2000 series of six animated short films). This little superhero comes alive throughout the Neon exhibit!
"Brilliant!" is the current popular 3D-mapped light-show at the museum which brings the retired unilluminated marquees and signs to life.
Tim added to this visual delight with a new segment and finale produced with Craig Winslow. It features the song 'The Man' by The Killers (for whom Burton directed two music videos).
The Killers, Las Vegas' hometown band, was there last Saturday when Burton received the Glow Award at the Neon Museum's third annual "Boneyard Ball" fundraiser held at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas. As Burton's lanky limbs gyrated and gesticulated (like Beetlejuice) he playfully said, "never received an award like this before! (Audience howls!)..."
"To say we're flattered that Mr. Burton has chosen our Museum for this exhibition would be an understatement," said Rob McCoy, President and CEO of the Neon Museum. "But when you think about it, Tim is one of the few artists who can match the great imagination of Las Vegas."
Burton exclaimed, "Unusual, magical and bizarre things were always possible here...I hope this show will revive a bit of that."
Its kinda fun to know before you go this quote, "Tim Burton's long-ago CalArts classmate, Beauty and the Beast co-director Gary Trousdale, told Vanity Fair:
"[Disney] didn't know what the hell to do with Tim. They were scared of him."
The Las Vegas-based Engelstad Foundation provided a gift of $250,000 to fund a substantial portion of "Lost Vegas: Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum. Engelstad is a foundation that funds various recipients with an eye toward impact and future growth.
When I attended the grand opening of the Neon Museum in 2012 to write about it, I fell in love! How beautiful to see this "Very Vegas" institution constantly blossom and prosper under the impeccable care of Rob McCoy and his cadre of capable visionaries, volunteers and superb staff.
Neon Museum members receive free admission to the exhibit plus an invitation to an exclusive members-only preview.
Exhibit runs October 15, 2019
through February 15, 2020.
770 Las Vegas Boulevard North,
Las Vegas, NV 89101