Our desert city’s underappreciated architectural landmarks take the spotlight in an informative photography exhibit inside The Gallery @ City Hall through March 29. It’s called “Phoenix Icons: The Art of Our Historic Landmarks,” and it will definitely leave you with new respect for places like the Carnegie Public Library near the Capitol, Luhrs Tower in downtown and many more locales.
The works by Michael Lundgren and Patrick Madigan come from two endeavors:
Lundgren was tasked by the city of Phoenix to create a portfolio called the “Historic Buildings Photography Project,” focusing on architecture from the latter half of the 20th century.
Madigan’s “25 Years / 25 Landmarks of Phoenix” was commissioned by the city’s public arts program in commemoration of Arizona’s 100th birthday in 2012. After this exhibit, the photos become part of the municipal art collection.
Together, the photos offer sparkling views of office buildings, retail spaces, homes and churches that often don’t catch our attention as we drive by. Both photographers utilized the most flattering light and angles, along with presenting the landmarks in quiet moments, sans crowds.
Take Veterans Memorial Coliseum, for instance. Who knew it could look so pretty, centered in Lundgren’s image, all lit up, with only an empty parking lot in the foreground? The exhibit label explains that the coliseum, built in 1964, is done in the Expressionist style, due to its organic forms and linear details.
Similarly, Madigan gives his close-up image of Tovrea Castle — our idiosyncratic “wedding cake” on East Van Buren Street — a formal, almost painterly feel. The castle is lit and two perfect saguaros flank its doorway.
Also enjoyable are photographs of the old Western Savings & Loan (now Souper Salad) at Metrocenter; Temple Beth Israel near the Burton Barr Central Library; Mystery Castle in south Phoenix; 300 Bowl on 19th Avenue, a bowling alley dating from 1958 that is done in the space-age “Googie” style; and the former Valley National Bank branch at 44th Street and Camelback Road, a curvilinear stone building by Frank Henry, done in the Modernist style and inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Somehow it’s fitting for the exhibit to include Lundgren’s image of the Courtesy Chevrolet sign, erected on East Camelback Road in 1957. Sure, it’s gaudy, but it’s fun and it’s a Phoenix icon.
The Gallery @ City Hall (love that @ sign, by the way) opened in 2012 as a Centennial project and has limited hours: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, at 200 W. Washington St., first floor. But you can catch the exhibit during First Friday art walks and, coming up March 2-3, 2013, during the 25th annual Art Detour.