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Zoomy art and perfectly so-so Mexican food

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Scott Dickensheets

A wall of Valentin Yordanov's paintings at the Sahara West Library

New Frontiers, by Valentin Yordanov

Though they teem with a sense of place, the paintings in New Frontiers, Valentin Yordanov’s show at the Sahara West Library, stop just short of actually depicting a place. Take a look at the title painting: It almost coheres into a setting — the scene appears to have depth; the hard-edged color-shapes interlock and overlap in ways that suggest an urban density of structures atop structures, pathways, bridges, signage and distinct zones of endeavor; it zooms with a cosmopolitan energy that evokes city life. Fast. Exciting. Of the moment. Now, look more closely: There are no details, no place-making specifics, none of the peculiarities that mark a real place as distinct from all others. Yordanov has carried the abstraction just far enough to phase-shift the image from what at first seems like a place into a depiction of resonant placelessness. That doesn’t mean there’s no there there, it’s just not the there you initially thought was there, and you don’t have a clue what it all means. This is, of course, in many ways the modern condition. By all means, imagine these pieces in conversation with Las Vegas itself (though I have no idea if Yordanov intends this), which, to many disaffected residents and French cultural theorists alike, is just as unreal, abstract and vacantly colorful as any piece in this enjoyable exhibit. Scott Dickensheets

 

The thoroughly average but acceptable Mexican restaurant
 
You were out a little late tonight. Started off as drinks with friends after a long day at work but now it’s, what, 10:37 p.m. You had three $12 bespoke cocktails that you cynically suspect were heavy on artisanal and light on alcohol, so, being the value-minded consumer you are, you followed up with much more provably potent $6 well whiskey on the rocks, and, yeah, now it’s 10:37 p.m., and now you’re starting to manifest a host of competing biological signals: the blinking, heavy-lidded languor is telling you to just go home, but the grumbling scraw in your gut is telling you to get something in your stomach. You don’t want to cook. What do you make at 10:37 p.m., anyway? There’s a hipster pizza-by-the-slice place up the street from the bar, but it’s a vibrating throng of the disgusting promise of youth. What do you do? 
 
You visit that Vegas institution, the Thoroughly Average but Acceptable Mexican Restaurant, that nexus of generously dispensed tortilla chips and salsa, both of which may be fresh or may be not, but it’s hard to tell, but they taste pretty good, so cool, and the servers who are alternately weirdly obsequious but also simultaneously distracted and rote, and with the margaritas where it seems like the ice cubes have been melting in them for just a few minutes before they were brought to your table, so they taste a little suspiciously watered down but you’re not the type to complain, and the long list of combo plates featuring burritos, tacos and enchiladas in various pairings and permutations like they’re in some kind of inscrutable tournament, but you always order the fajitas because they come close to some idea of demonstrable freshness and authenticity, of realness, the way they come out sizzling on the cast iron pan set in the wood oval by the programmatically-smiling-but-not-looking-at-you-server. (By the time you’re done, you’ll have sat through no fewer than three birthday serenades.) The Thoroughly Average but Acceptable Mexican Restaurant is open until midnight on weekdays.
 
This is all just okay, but it’s exactly what you needed, what the Thoroughly Average but Acceptable Mexican Restaurant always delivers: The convenient, prosaic delight that is achieving release from the tedious rigor of having, and therefore having to manage, and therefore having to negotiate the various minuscule psychic oscillations that are the mental residue of having had to manage expectations. Arriba. Andrew Kiraly

 

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