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Georgia O'Keeffe at the Slots: More on Casino Carpets

Filed under: Looked Into   Tagged: , , , , , ,

Jonathan Taylor writes:

One holiday season of the high 1990s, I drove over from New Orleans to rendezvous with some friends at the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. I had to head back late the same night to catch a plane the next morning. But after an evening on the casino floor, back in my friends' room I realized I had dropped my keys—somewhere. By the time I called Lost & Found, they had already been turned in, which I still consider inexplicable, and you would too, if you've been in a casino and seen what the carpet patterns are like. (Not quite as good, though, as the guy in London who returned the wallet I jet-laggedly left in a phone booth—a guy whose job was to put up those cards and stickers for prostitutes that used to plaster London phone boxes.)

Anyway, Lauren Collins has a nice Talk piece on a gallery show of photographs of casino carpeting by Polish-born, Swedish -raised Chris Maluszynski at 25CPW "this week" (gallery site seems to have no info on the show). It reminded me that there was another nice short piece on the topic in The Believer a few years ago, "Rolling Out the Carpet for Homo Ludens" by Alexander Provan (the print issue had a nice insert of sample patterns).

Provan wrote:

....hotels and casinos are increasingly looking to trade gimmickry for packaged elegance, starting with the carpets. Oddly, many of the new floor-coverings feature forms and figures that would look familiar to the so-called non-objective filmmakers, animators and painters emergent in the first half of the twentieth century, such as Oskar Fischinger, Jordan Belson and the Whitney Brothers--call it visual Muzak. On a recent trip to Las Vegas I saw densely packed geometries, monochromatic patterns, abstract figures in various stages of metamorphosis. The new carpets at Harrah's appropriate the quivering striations of Georgia O'Keefe's "Music--Pink and Blue II" and wash all tension away with buckets of brown and orange. At the Mirage, russet amoeba cartoons exchange organic matter over a tan backdrop. At Carson City's Nugget Hotel, Paul Klee's "Variations (Progressive Motif)" is amplified beyond the bounds of good taste and supersaturated in canyon hues....
Mark Pilarski, a longtime Vegas insider and consultant, agrees that the abstract geometric patterns are used "to break up the space," in accordance with the Friedman Standards. But he also contends that, for those in the business, "The main reason is that your eyes are focused to look up at the machines. You just can't keep looking at that busy pattern when you're walking." A solid pattern, he adds, "would look like a football field. I've seen this once--the casino looks like the runway of an airport, like infinity. But the guests don't want that, they don't want it to be infinity out there."

"Friedman" is Bill Friedman, author of Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition.


Yes, I saw that piece by Lauren Collins. I’m going to wait for the hard copy in my mail box before I read it. But it’s the kind of article I really like. I’m a sucker for photography reviews, anyway. And this one, describing a show of photos of casino carpeting, seems inspired. It could involve three layers of art: the carpets, the photos of the carpets, and the writing about the photos of the carpets.

There’s even another layer, if you count the art that some of the carpets incorporates/imitates!

Oh lordy, I’m reading this on April 1, and the concept of casino carpets being (not once but TWICE) a subject worthy of magazine-length contemplation is so glorious that I half-expected one of the links to rickroll me. Awesome.

Has anyone looked into the less ecstatic but still peculiar patterns used by train seat upholsterers and the like?

What do you mean by the art that the patterns incorporate/imitate, Jonathan?

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