The crowds were light, but the art was well worth seeing. Or maybe the experience was pleasant because the crowds were light? In any case, the galleries were not deterred by the triple-digit heat in welcoming art lovers.
Third Friday on Roosevelt Row is also known as the monthly Collectors Art Walk, where the concentration is more on the art and less on the live music, food trucks, crafts vendors, and generally raucous atmosphere that characterize First Fridays. I met a number of our wonderful Phoenix-area artists, including one artist who is making Phoenix his temporary home.
He’s Bassim al-Shaker, who hails from Iraq and is enjoying his 10-month stay at Combine Studios as part of Arizona State University’s International Artist Residency program. For Third Friday, he was showing at the 720 Gallery, with one room showcasing examples of the figurative and symbolic portrayals of the Mideast that he is most known for. The other room presented low-key works that have been inspired by his sojourn in Phoenix, including a lovely desert landscape that bears a resemblance to the work of Merrill Mahaffey. In the main room, I stared at “Untitled,” in which an elephant defaced by red string (blood?) is raising so much dust as to obscure most of his head. The Statue of Liberty rises from the dust in the background.
Bassim would like to extend his stay in Phoenix, given the recurrence of unrest in his homeland, said 720 Gallery’s Mike Oleskow. The artist, who has shown in the Venice Biennale and whose experience here has been featured in The New York Times, would make a worthy addition to the local art scene.
Speaking of ASU, it’s also the force behind a Pablo Helguera installation at Combine, in which gallery space has been turned into an itinerant bookstore, filled to the brim with Spanish-language books of all stripes — and the books are free for the taking. It’s called “Librería Donceles” and you’ve gotta love its coziness, along with its messages about community, nostalgia and knowledge. It’s in place through Saturday, June 28; my review: https://www.visualartsource.com/index.php?page=editorial&pcID=26&aID=2227
Over at Modified Arts, a fascinating group show has a retro Phoenix theme. I loved the illustrations of classic Phoenix architecture by Jon Arvizu and the precious photographs of turn-of-the-century Phoenix as presented by Jeremy Rowe. Also contributing to the show are James Angel (paintings), Arizona Contractor & Community Magazine (photographs of Phoenix during mid-century) and Douglas Towne (collages of old-Phoenix advertising slogans and logos). The show is called “Independents Week” in honor of the coming week’s national initiative to patronize locally owned businesses. The show runs through July 12.
The atmosphere was tense — yes, tense! — at monOrchid, as “contestants” in a “Survivor”-style show were awaiting the word as to whether they would move to the next round in July. I chatted with a couple of the artists, who seemed downright energized by the rules and requirements of the contest, called “Thermal PHX.” The June segment called for works that riff on portraiture, landscapes and still life. Next up: sculpture, and finally in August, installation, with the winner moving on to a solo show in 2015. Some of the artists have never tried these art forms before, but seemed eager to “push the boundaries,” they said.
Finally, Roosevelt Row’s venerable Eye Lounge was hosting Constance McBride with a provocative look at the inevitability of aging. In an artist’s statement, McBride says, “I’ve decided to embrace the aging process rather than embark on the fruitless task of resisting it.” Her beautifully rendered nude portraits and busts made me, personally, feel a little better about my wrinkles and bulges. They are, indeed, inevitable.