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First Friday Roundup

<p>Joel Spencer</p>

Joel Spencer

<p>Jesse Smigel</p>

Jesse Smigel

<p>Giovanni Morales</p>

Giovanni Morales

Aaron Nemec

Less Popular Music

Singing in the shower and guitar solos in the living room tended to be intimate, usually private performances — until YouTube. Artist Aaron Nemec surfs the vast ocean of amateur video performances, curating a collection of guitar solos, cropping the image to small square revealing only the performers’ facial expressions.

Nemec: “I can’t get past the vastness of the material available on YouTube. And every day dozens (hundreds?) of similar amateur performances get added to it. Unfortunately, the videos can disappear as quickly as they are posted. This recently happened with someone who I had been following closely … He was usually in an unbuttoned pajamas top, looking down at the camera, and singing some well-known song very passionately, but under his breath. Sometimes he did weird celebrity impressions. I always wondered if I should make contact with him, but I never did.”

Through Oct. 27; Contemporary Art Center, in the Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston Blvd.,

Joel Spencer

Flying Humanoid

Joel Spencer takes a beloved conspiracy classic and turns out ethereal, abstracted sci-fi paintings and images. Amorphous stains of blue, violet and black poetically muse upon poor-quality video footage of alleged UFO sightings.

Spencer: “There is a phenomena of sightings throughout the world, and especially in Mexico, of these sort of human shapes floating around. I love the idea of a humanoid vessel transcending atmosphere so effortlessly. Watching the really bad footage of these humanoid flying contraptions amuses me. They could be weather balloons, military devices, hoaxes and are even thought to be witches. The idea that a flying suit could transport a single pilot is as good as science-fiction gets.”

Through Sept. 30; Blackbird Studios, 1551 S. Commerce St.,

Giovanni Morales

New Thrills

Dripping blue paint runs down through yellow and red lettering accenting a ’50s lingerie add, fading behind the suit of a gumshoe detective gripping an old rotary phone. With New Thrills Morales offers up a color-drenched mash-up of Lichtenstein-like teary damsels in distress, sign-painter stenciling and crime-fighting pulp action.

Morales: “When I was younger I used to watch my cousin cut stencils from type and I thought it was so cool, I was instantly hooked. So I took up the knife and started perfecting the art of stenciling. A lot of my characters are from vintage comic books; I guess I’m a sucker for crying women. I tend to build up layer upon layer, and then if I don’t like something I sand it away and do it again. In New Thrills there are six layers of images, maybe eight, I lost track. While creating it my kid started walking all over it, so you’ll see some distress from that but I just think it is all a part of the process … add things, take them away, add some more and so on.”

Through Sept. 29; Brett Wesley Gallery, 1112 S. Casino Center Blvd.,

Jesse Smigel

Gnot the Proper Gnomenclature

Enormous garden gnomes, sculpted by artist Jesse Smigel, will be on view at Las Vegas City Hall until Jan. 17. Dwarfing us at nine feet tall, the two gnomes invert our experience of the diminutive lawn decorations. Smigel talks about transporting the gnomes through the city, passing deliberately by an elementary school yard at recess.

Smigel: “I thought it would be fun to give the kids a little boost, a little something weird for their day. … The kids rushed to the chain-link fence so quickly they were literally pushing other kids out of their way. Never in their wildest little peanut-butter-jelly minds did they think, ‘Today I’m going to go see two giant gnomes.’ My friend has her video camera and goes down the line of smiling kids faces and asks, ‘So what do you guys think? You like the gnomes?’ And the kids go, ‘Yeah!,’ and then this one little kid says, ‘You should sand them down some more.’ It’s funny, this kid can’t finish a juice box, doesn’t know long division, but he’s an art critic already.”

Through Jan. 17; Las Vegas City Hall, 495 S. Main St.,