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‘High Noon’ on display

For a split second, Brian Henry’s artwork appeared on national television during a preview for MTV’s “The Real World” in Las Vegas.

There it hung on the wall of the Hard Rock Hotel suite representing all of 18b’s Arts District glory.

Then a drunken cast member punched the frame, shattering the glass and sending the photo of a hotel sign crashing to the ground.

Henry wasn’t too concerned when the show’s producer called and asked for two more reprints. His wife, artist Jennifer Henry, laughs when she tells the story. He likes to talk about the exposure.

“We had no clue what had happened,” Henry said. “We asked if anything was salvageable, thinking maybe the frame was damaged, but they said it was completely destroyed. I thought it was pretty awesome. I wasn’t too offended about it.”

The cast member’s fist specifically connects with the “Yucca Motel” piece, a blue and white neon sign that shines down on the building, 1727 Las Vegas Blvd. South, which is wedged in between a wedding chapel and an adult movie store.

The piece was captured during the day as the desert sun’s beams dance along the sign. The sign’s dark blues contrast harshly against the light blue of the sunlit sky.

That same piece hangs in Henry’s “High Noon” exhibit at Kleven Contemporary, 520 E. Fremont St., inside Emergency Arts. The show runs through May 28. His wife’s FlockFlockFlock vintage clothing boutique is next door to the gallery, which Henry said made sense for his show.

“I thought it was really appropriate, because so many of the photos were from Fremont Street,” Henry said.

“High Noon” is an ongoing collection of mixed media works based on Henry’s photography of iconic Las Vegas motel signs. The photos are transformed through a multi-step process, which includes digitally manipulating the photo and drawing over the image using sign rendering techniques.

Henry captured the swooping V-shape of the Tod Motor Motel sign, 1508 Las Vegas Blvd., South, which is dwarfed by the Stratosphere. The sign is tinged with a light blue that accents the gray-blue sky behind it.

The body of work serves as a frozen moment in time for some signs that have since been destroyed.

“I’m really happy I took those photos, because several of those signs have been completely or almost defaced,” Henry said. “Some have been taken apart and painted over with new words, and they look horrible. I would have preferred they wound up in the boneyard, but they’ve really been destroyed.”

Henry describes making the art in an assembly line fashion from the photography to the printing stages. The project began in the early 2000s, a few years after he entered the sign making industry.

“I was looking critically at what signs are, how they work and how they behave,” he said. “As soon as I got involved in doing signs I realized how complex they really are. It’s not as simple as just being a sign; there are additional layers. It’s a statement about the business that says a lot more than just the words that are written on it.”

“High Noon” is at Kleven Contemporary, 520 E. Fremont St., inside the Emergency Arts building. Gallery hours are 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 501-9030.

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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