The phoenix of Sahara Avenue
True visual surprise comes rarely in Vegas. The Strip is a bacchanal that cloys the eye; most of the rest of the cityscape is doing its Late Flat Suburban Americana thing. But what happens when the chocolate and peanut butter of meretricious and meh come together? Then all of a sudden a ferocious phoenix is flexing its talons from the facade of a sleepy strip mall and sexting your optic nerves.
I’m referring to the beautiful mural-painted front of The Phoenix Bar & Lounge, which features a dramatic flame-born phoenix in full, furious attack mode. On the blahscape of eastern West Sahara — gas station, fast food, strip mall, repeat — it’s a welcome splash of spectacle that adds a bit of WTF? surreality to the scene. (The Statue of Liberty anchoring the Liberty Square strip mall adds an extra dose of dada. From just the right angle, it can look as though the phoenix is about to eat Lady Liberty for lunch, or at least flirtatiously touch her cowled booty.) Aside from its in-your-face factor, the mural is technically flawless and formally vigorous — but it’s got these wild-style flares and wisps that tell you the pleasure principle was very much at work in the process. This guy can paint the hell out of a phoenix, and you sense that he really enjoys the fact that he can paint the hell out of a phoenix.
It should come as no surprise then, that the artist behind it is kind of a big deal: Gear Duran aka Gear Boxxx, a spraycan artist and bodypainting instructor (or, to quote from his bio, which is just as electrified and maniacal as his paint style: a “digital cyberpunk