Friday, Feb. 10, 2006 | 12:33 p.m.
Well known in Europe as one of the pre-eminent names in Polish poster art, Waldemar Swierzy created thousands of pieces for cinema, circus, theater and music.
His clever use of color, text and design brought in so many commissions that he was forced to turn away work.
Notable for his jazz works, the pieces reflect the essence of some of the genre's most noted performers, be it the vibrant sounds of Benny Goodman or the intensity of Miles Davis.
And then Swierzy came to Las Vegas.
Brought here 2 1/2 years ago by Jack and Carolyn Solomon of the S2Art Group, Swierzy was staying in an apartment provided by S2Art when he turned on the television.
"The apartment has cable," Jack Solomon said. "And guess what he started watching? 'The Sopranos.'
"He loves gangsters now. He's not interested in doing jazz."
Swierzy's gangsters, part of his Bada Bing, Bada Boom series, feature humorous renditions of gangster life, including the big-chinned, cigarette-smoking mobsters in "The Boss" and "The Last Brunch" (a take-off of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper").
"He Knew Too Much," a depiction of the fate of a gangster, incorporates some of his earlier poster techniques. From 7-9 p.m. Saturday, the 73-year-old Swierzy will be at the Entertainment Galleries in the Venetian to open an exhibit of his recent work.
"The High Stakes Art of Waldemar Swierzy: An Exhibition of Recent Paintings and Lithographs" will feature Swierzy's jazz musicians, gangsters and his recent poker works that are part of S2Art's lithograph and poster collection, "High Stakes Art."
The poker series carries the same playful mood as his gangster works.
The works, sprinkled with colorful poker chips, reference masterpieces by da Vinci and Michaelangelo.
Portraying gamblers and gangsters allows him to use his imagination, Swierzy said.
"With jazz I try to paint the music," Swierzy said Wednesday with his wife serving as translator. "Here, I'm able to paint more freely, to build a story."
Gangsters have been a longtime interest for Swierzy, who played police and gangsters with other children as a child in Warsaw.
Today, Swierzy said, "I like how they dressed, how they moved, their guns and their beautiful cars."
More information can be found at www.s2art.com or by calling Entertainment Galleries at 866-6813.
UNLV Opera Theatre will usher in the spirit of Valentine's Day tonight with a presentation of Broadway love songs and a selection from Mozart's "The Magic Flute."
"An Evening of Love Songs" will be presented at 8 p.m. at Christ the King Catholic Church, 4925 S. Torrey Pines Drive. The performance is free.
If Latin jazz or dance is your thing, February is your month.
The Charleston Heights Arts Center at 800 S. Brush St. continues its Latin Dance film series, "The Passion of Dance," at 3 p.m. Sunday with "Tango, No Me Dejes Nunca" (1998) directed by Carlos Saura. "Bossa Nova" will be shown Feb. 12, followed by "Flamenco" on Feb. 19 and "Danzon" on Feb. 26. All films are subtitled in English. Tickets are $3. For more information, call 229-6383.
At 7 p.m. Thursday the East Las Vegas Community/Senior Center, 250 N. Eastern Ave., will present "Machito: A Latin Jazz Legacy," a documentary on Cuban bandleader Frank "Machito" Grillo that includes vintage film clips and recordings. The film is part of a series of documentaries on Latin jazz that includes "Celia Cruz" on Feb. 23 and "Roots of Rhythm" on March 2.
Each film is followed by a discussion led by Rae Arroyo, host of KUNV's "Latin Connection." Tickets are $5. For more information, call 229-1515.
The Winchester Cultural Center at 3130 S. McLeod Drive begins its "African American Movie Month" film series at 7 p.m. today with the showing of the 1987 comedy "Hollywood Shuffle." Rated R, the movie takes a satirical look at a black actor struggling to break through the stereotypical black roles in Hollywood.
The 1973 documentary "Wattstax" will be shown Feb. 17. The film features the seven-hour soul music festival in 1972 that was held as a fundraiser for the community after the Watts Riots. The 1964 drama "Nothing But a Man" will be shown Feb. 24.
All showings are free. For more information, call 455-7340.
Kristen Peterson can be reached at 259-2317 or at kristen@lasvegassun.