Stumbling upon chaos, desolation and human kindness: Phoenix’s Third Friday of 10/18/13

In yet another testament to the enormous variety of art to peruse during a Third Friday art walk in downtown Phoenix, I am still processing all that I saw in just three shows:

1. “Chaos Theory” at Legend City Studios, Fifth Avenue and Van Buren: Here’s a doozy of a show for anyone following the many established and emerging artists living and working in Phoenix. This is the 14th year that Arizona artist Randy Slack has dedicated a Friday evening in the fall (two Fridays this year!) to transforming the warehouse-like Legend City into a panoply of recent works, one per artist and including more than 60 artists. That’s a lot to absorb, and every viewer will have favorites.

I was drawn to several familiar names and a couple of not-as-familiar names, with my favorite work probably being a David Dauncey portrait of a bearded man rendered in a curious amalgamation of mottled paint, thick brush strokes and a background of scratched paint. I also admired: a figurative work by Michael Carson, who shows at Bonner David Galleries in Scottsdale; the witty, nostalgic and super-sized painting “Big Surf” by Slack; the multi-layered interpretation of Seventh Street and Roosevelt by painter Colin Chillag; the environmental message of Carrie Marill’s acrylic-on-linen work “Transplant”; a fisheye photograph of the Westward Ho by Colton Brock; and the purposely huge black-and-white photograph of a homeless man by Jehu.

A review in the New Times is not entirely complimentary about “Chaos Theory” this year, complaining about mediocrity and predictability. On the other hand, I understand from an interview with Slack by Kristin Bauer in JAVA Magazine that the “chaos” in the title of the invitational show comes from the artists’ typically chaotic, last-minute push to create something specifically for the show. Hey, artists, I love deadline pressure, too, and I’m glad I got a glimpse of what all of you are up to.

2. “Temporal,” new works from Jonathan Howard, at Modified/Arts, Fourth and Roosevelt streets: Travel enough times on Interstate 10 toward Los Angeles and you’re likely to see an abandoned gas station or two, spooky in their off-ramp perches on desert buttes, the tumbleweeds gathering. It is that kind of desolation that Howard captures in his paintings of abandoned stores and gas pumps, which I found beautifully rendered and particularly deft with the yellows and grays that set the mood. These paintings, along with his series of gray-toned cityscapes, examine what it means to be temporal, or of limited existence. The works are up only until November 9.

3. “Fore / Ground, a Preview of ‘Ground Cover,’ “ at Eye Lounge, Fourth and Roosevelt streets: And just a couple of doors away was a gallery demonstrating the art of human kindness, that is, several women in a circle of chairs, knitting squares for a temporary public art project called “Ground Cover.” The brainstorm of Arizona mixed media artist Ann Morton (read my Q & A with her here), the project calls upon “blanketeers” — knitting volunteers from all over the country — to create 10-by-10-inch squares that together will form blankets, with the blankets intended to cover a vacant lot at First Street and McKinley. But that’s not all: the multi-colored blankets are designed to come together to form a view of lush desert blooms when viewed from above. More human kindness: after a two-day installation and viewing, the blankets will be donated to the homeless. Pretty impressive, no? Mark your calendars for December 6-7, 2013, to view the installation and read more about “Ground Cover” here.

2 thoughts on “Stumbling upon chaos, desolation and human kindness: Phoenix’s Third Friday of 10/18/13

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