I would venture to say that the roomful of paintings by Phoenix artist Larry Willis on the first floor of the Burton Barr Central Library is garnering more attention than usual for a low-key show in a non-art gallery setting.
That’s because Willis deals in the images we instantly recognize and, in many cases, worship: pop culture icons like Kate Moss, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie … and the list goes on. Here and there are images of fast cars, glam magazines, guitars and other touchstones of our American lives — images so accessible, we might want to call them “eye candy.” Willis, though, has aptly titled his show “Fables for a Post-Pop World.”
Of course, Willis’ paintings have deeper meaning, and for those who linger in the @Central Gallery — just a few steps away from the main information desk — the reward is understanding that the guitar-hero or movie-star life we might idolize is probably not as substantial as we would like it to be. The images, in fact, makes the subjects’ lives look flat.
Willis, a longtime Phoenix painter whose exhibitions include The Arizona Biennial at the Tucson Museum of Art, says in his artist’s statement to consider the transience of fame and whether what we see in our pop culture icons is really what we get. I liked the painting “Italianos,” with an imagined
cover shot for a magazine named Ferrari. The shot features Sophia Loren, holding a mask of the Mona Lisa, with Mona Lisa stencils bordering the bottom of the painting.
The show is up until October 17, 2012, so there is no need to rush to see it. But if you’re browsing books, DVDS, etc., at Barr — one of our city’s treasures — then do stop in at the gallery. More information is on the Phoenix Public Library website.