High art hidden in casino carpets

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The way Ludington Court usually looks. Photo: Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Usually, when you walk into the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, you see this:

A collection of marble Greco-Roman sculptures surrounding a large-scale loutrophoros, a ceremonial water vase used in ancient Greece.

But, for the next four months, you’ll see this:

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What Ludington Court looks like now. Photo: Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Reds pop and greens glow. Patterns spin and collide. Take off your shoes and every step has a different sensation. You’ll float through velvet and sink down in plush only to land on something itchy and stiff as you take another step.

Typically, the space known as Ludington Court doesn’t change. But as the SBMA prepares for upcoming renovations, L.A. artist Cayetano Ferrer took advantage of the empty space to create a thought-provoking and sensory-stimulating mosaic.

The colorful scraps are discarded carpet remnants from Las Vegas casinos. Ferrer has been making friends with carpet installers and collecting trashed scraps from Vegas dumpsters for years. The opulent patterns, embellished with mutated, oversized Greek and Egyptian motifs in brash colors, come from iconic spots like the Bellagio, the Palms, and Planet Hollywood.

“They’ve been chopped and diced into smaller and smaller pieces, so it really becomes a noise of a historical cross section of art history,” said Ferrer.

He uses his exhibit to compare the realms of museums with that of casinos, questioning the perception of high art versus low art.

“Las Vegas absorbed this iconography as a symbol of class,” said Ferrer. “In a sense, museums had a big part in creating that sensibility of this relationship to class. So there’s a relationship I want to point out between these very different, but in some way similar spaces.”

Photo: Santa Barbara Museum of Art

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