Surprise encounter

Omar Pierce

Omar Pierce and some of his art works at Pie-Face Pizza Co.

Omar Pierce and some of his art works at Pie-Face Pizza Co.

Photo By brad bynum

Omar Pierce’s exhibition Wilder, Lower is on display at Pie-Face Pizza Co., 239 W. Second St., through Sept. 28.

A great evening in downtown Reno: My friends and I went to Aces Stadium, watched the team squeak out an exciting, narrow victory, then walked over to Lincoln Lounge for some celebratory drinks, drank enough to work up an appetite, and headed over to Pie-Face Pizza Co. for a late night slice and some chicken wings.

While we were enjoying our midnight snack, I glanced at the wall across from where we were sitting. There hung a series of six wall-mounted prints, each depicting what appeared to be a cow’s head outlined in the crooked arrowhead shape of Nevada. Each print was mounted differently—on paper, wood or cardboard, some even framed behind glass. Some of the Nevada shapes were upside down. The works were eye-catching even in the bustle of the busy pizzeria and behind the haze of more-than-three beers.

“Wow!” I said. “Who did those?”

Some quick inquires led me to discover that it was Omar Pierce. I was surprised. I was familiar with Pierce’s work—I wrote in the RN&R about a show he had a year ago (“Wild horses,” Oct. 7, 2010)—but this work had a more formal, deliberate quality than some of his other stuff. Additionally, I had recently seen some of his work up at nearby Jungle Vino, and though I knew him to be a prolific, hard-working artist, I was surprised that he’d have two shows up simultaneously.

“Well, I actually just took the Jungle Vino show down,” Pierce told me when I met him for lunch at Pie-Face a few days later. “That was basically for August. This is for September, though the two shows did overlap for a week, which was pretty cool.”

The print series is called “Beast of Burden.” And those six prints make up about half of Wilder, Lower, Pierce’s exhibition at Pie-Face. The animal head in the photo is actually a burro, not a cow, and there are actually two of them, nuzzling their heads together—though Pierce acknowledges that only one of them is really recognizable. The print comes from a photo he took. “Beast of Burden” represents a couple of firsts for Pierce: the first time he’s done a series and the first time he’s framed his work.

“These are more decorative and design-oriented than most of my work,” he said. “They actually seem wall-ready. Usually people say my work has an unfinished quality, like it’s only 50 percent there, which doesn’t bother me. But these seem like works made to be seen on a wall.”

Nevada is a recurring theme in Pierce’s work—it was one clue that might’ve tipped me off to the artist behind “Beast of Burden.”

“All biases aside, I think Nevada has the best shape of all the states,” he said.

Pierce made all of the works in Wilder, Lower specifically for the show. He likes to make new work for every exhibition.

“I don’t want to explain something I made months ago,” he said. “That work represents my attitude then, which might not be the same as my attitude now.”

Showing artwork in a nontraditional space, like a pizzeria, has some advantages. People go to art galleries or museums expecting to see art. But sometimes the unexpected art encounter, like the one I had with Pierce’s show at Pie-Face, can be more rewarding.

“Pie-Face and Jungle Vino are both late-night downtown spots that people visit for other reasons than to see art,” said Pierce. “But maybe while they’re here, they’ll see something, and maybe they’ll get something out of it, but if not, then they can just ignore it.”