Vegas Rising: Satellite Contemporary’s New Space

Opened this past year late in 2014, Satellite Contemporary is a newcomer on the Vegas art scene. Nestled in the Emergency Arts building on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas, the gallery is a small, cozy space pushing the limits and expanding the local programming.

Installation view at Satellite Contemporary | Left to right: Erik den Breejen, “ELLIOTT SMITH (HAPPINESS)” | Christopher Kane Taylor, “Flying V”  | Joe Wardwell, “Maybe Just Happy” | Erik den Breejen, “JONI MITCHELL (CALIFORNIA)” | Erik den Breejen, “ABUQUERQUE AT THE BEACH (ALONE AT THE MICROPHONE)” | Courtesy of Satellite Contemporary.

Three artists and professors from Flagstaff, AZ, came together to start the gallery. Nicole Langille Jelsing, Christopher Kane Taylor (NAP #108), and Dennis K. McGinnis share the goal to bring established and emerging artists to their space, creating cohesive, yet unexpected group shows. – Ellen Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

Installation view at Satellite Contemporary | Left to right: Christopher Kane Taylor, “Weird Beard” | Christopher Kane Taylor, “Concrete Discipline” | Joe Wardwell, “Well Intentioned but Bad Advice” | Courtesy of Satellite Contemporary.

In last month’s exhibit The Vegas Session, they showcased the text-based art of Erik Den Breejen, Joe Wardwell (NAP #56, #80, #98), and co-gallery-owner Christopher Kane Taylor. Based on the unifying theme of music, the works all referenced musical heroes and icons, inspiring lyrics, and influential music-related experiences.

Each artist has a unique style that played well off of one another in interesting ways, and the show carried viewers seamlessly on a journey through the small space.

Erik den Breejen | “JONI MITCHELL (CALIFORNIA)” acrylic on linen and “ABUQUERQUE AT THE BEACH (ALONE AT THE MICROPHONE)” acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Satellite Contemporary.

Through his detailed acrylic compositions, Den Breejen meticulously writes and paints entire song lyrics wherein each letter, word, or phrase is encapsulated in a coordinating color so that they become the building block of the portrait he is creating.

Viewers have become used to seeing Photoshopped composite portraits or “photo mosaics” in this digital age, however Den Breejen’s painfully detailed paintings are something akin to the analog version of such, making viewers consider the artist’s hand and skill in his process, planning, and layout. The end result is appealing, inviting, and ultimately inspiring, calling us to consider the idols he pays tribute to so well.

Joe Wardwell | “Well Intentioned but Bad Advice”, 2013, Oil on Canvas and “As We Go Up We Go Down”, 2013, Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Satellite Contemporary.

Joe Wardwell, on the other hand, explores lyrics in a much bigger and broader way. Taking just snippets or catch phrases of a song, he enlarges those chosen words and superimposes them within landscape paintings, thus mixing a well-established and somewhat timeless tradition with something new and contemporary.

Wardwell’s process is also one of subtraction and addition -- and one of dedication in that he essentially paints two paintings to produce one. In order to achieve his finished, collaged look, he first paints a landscape painting, then masks out the lyrical letters with tape, paints a new painting over it to serve as the background or negative space behind the letters, and then finally removes the tape to reveal the dual paintings. It is a time-consuming process that reveals a dedication to the complexity of the end result.

Joe Wardwell | “Well Intentioned but Bad Advice”, 2013, oil on canvas and “As We Go Up We Go Down”, 2013, oil on canvas; Christopher Kane Taylor | “Elliott” 2015, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Satellite Contemporary.

And with Christopher Kane Taylor’s work, he continues his personal visual narrative and free form expression in exploring the role of music and art in his life. In “Flying V,” for instance, Taylor offers the viewer a trade: this painting for a Gibson Flying V, in his words, “the coolest piece of mid-century modern.”

In “Elliott,” Taylor presents us with the bookend to his earlier work “Middle Aged Introspection” from 2013. In the latter work, Taylor looks back at his youth and laments the fact that he missed a Nirvana concert for his then-job as a dishwasher. In the former, Taylor offers us a personal tale of the concert he did see and paints the picture for viewers of an emotional and raw experience seeing Elliott Smith perform.

In all of these works, the love of and passion for music prevailed. But more so, the ties that bind music and visual art were criss-crossed back and forth, emphasizing and reaffirming the inextricable connection between the two.

Installation view at Satellite Contemporary | Left to right: Joe Wardwell | “Maybe Just Happy”; Erik den Breejen | “JONI MITCHELL (CALIFORNIA)”; “ABUQUERQUE AT THE BEACH (ALONE AT THE MICROPHONE)”; “TO LIVE IS TO FLY”; “WALTZ #2 (XO)”; Christopher Kane Taylor | “Weird Beard.” Courtesy of Satellite Contemporary.


Satellite Contemporary is located in the Emergency Arts building on Fremont St. in the old heart of Las Vegas. Visit their site to be added to their mailing list or contact them for an appointment.

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, writer, and editor.


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