Taking in an exhibit like “Collecting Arizona,” currently at the ASU Art Museum, is like watching an all-star game, although in this case the baseball heroes are art heroes — painters, ceramists, photographers and others with strong ties to the Grand Canyon State.
Arizona State University curated the show to coincide with our state’s Centennial, and the works fill two galleries on the museum’s first floor.
The baseball reference is apt, because the family-friendly aspect of the show includes a papier-mache version of Curt Schilling by Alfredo Manzo Cedeno.
But on to a couple “home runs” of the show:
— It takes pains to spotlight several early (and almost forgotten) stand-outs in the Arizona art scene. And so you can see, for instance: a landscape by Jessie Benton Evans; a spectral lithograph called “The Gathering” by Eugene Grigsby, one of ASU’s first African-American art professors; a 1942 pastel portrait by Harry Wood, also of early-ASU fame; a 1968 watercolor portrait by venerated sculptor John Henry Waddell; and the socio-politically charged “A Dream on a Dream” by Robert Colescott, a University of Arizona professor and the first African-American to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale.
— It points out the later generations of nationally and internationally recognized artists who, for the most part, still live and work in Arizona. Homage is paid to the late Fritz Scholder with “Waiting Indian No. 4” and to the late Philip Curtis with “Exodus,” a surreal view of families leaving the shelter of a dead saguaro. And with an eye to contemporary art, the all-star roster includes Arizonans Jim Waid, Bill Schenck, Annie Lopez, Patricia Sannit, Don Reitz, Kurt Weiser, Matthew Moore, Steven Yazzie, Colin Chillag and many others — with a range of work in mixed media, ceramics and painting.
My “learn-something-new-every-day” moment was finding out that the famous early 20th-century printmaker, George Elbert Burr, spent his last years in Phoenix. He is represented in the show by the beautiful etching “Evening, Paradise Valley, Arizona.”
There’s interesting reading about the 100 greatest artists that have lived and/or worked in Arizona at http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/jackalope/2012/02/arizona_illustrated_100_artist.php
For more information on “Collecting Arizona,” which runs through Sept. 29, 2012, visit the ASU Art Museum webpage.