London-born Sin City citizen Tim Bavington is an artist who, for the last 10 years, has shown his work in prestigious galleries in Los Angeles, New York and overseas. He’s easily one of the most successful fine artists to call this town home. Now he’s ready for the latest challenge—bringing his art off the refined walls of museums and private collectors and out into the comparatively gritty arena of public art.
Gritty isn’t perhaps the best way to characterize Symphony Park, the 61-acre, mixed-use urban community in the heart of downtown that’s being developed by the city. Inside the neighborhood will be a small park with a concert stage, as well as Bavington’s first foray into public art.
Scheduled to open in March, the park is run by, and will come online simultaneously with, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. But the center will have to compete with the artist’s re-imagining of 20th century composer Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” For Bavington, thinking in three dimensions is novel. He’s used to, and famous for, his two-dimensional “striped” paintings—lines of color serving as notation for pop songs.
“The idea was to create something people can walk around by rendering an abstract painting into sculptural form,” he says. “I really wanted to present an artwork that’s simple, bold, and relying on Copland’s piece seemed a natural fit for a public park.”
Natural isn’t the initial word that comes to mind when considering the size of what Bavington has finished constructing in his L.A. warehouse: At 80 feet in length, 28 feet at its highest point, the work is a series of enamel-coated steel pipes—the height of each pipe is determined by the length of the note it signifies. Each color symbolizes a note in the Western music scale. (A two-dimensional, painted version will be mounted on the second floor of the Smith Center’s 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall.)
“‘Fanfare’ is less than 40 bars, which makes it manageable,” admits Bavington. “More than that, however, I looked at the score and just had a feeling for it.”
Indeed, feeling music has always been important to this artist. “Growing up in England, I always found pop music to be a big part of my life,” he says. “For my generation, music was about discovering one’s identity with friends at school—and people found their identity in glam rock, punk, Mod and metal. “Music is different today, less culturally significant as compared to punk,” he continues. “Hip-hop was the biggest thing to happen since that time, but nothing particularly new seems to have developed. Remember, though, my generation didn’t have video games or the Internet. Music was everything to us.”
Bavington made his way to Vegas when his parents split up, his father moving here in 1976. The young artist arrived a year after graduating high school and learned about the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, for which his dad offered to pay the tuition.
Bavington stayed in the States, working in the entertainment industry doing movie posters and graphic design. Exhausted, he returned to Vegas in ’93, married the daughter of a YESCO neon-sign engineer, and was approached by eminent art critic Dave Hickey to attend UNLV’s MFA arts program.
“Dave gets all the credit for convincing me to attend grad school and launching my career,” confirms Bavington. “He’s an influential presence.”
Although he insists the Strip’s intense illumination doesn’t influence him any more than American pop culture in general, he champions living downtown. “Oh, I absolutely love it,” he says, “I don’t know if I can live anywhere else. With the Smith Center here, I imagine it becoming an even better place to live.”
For info about Tim Bavington visit www.timbavington.com and Symphony Park, visit www.symphonypark.com.