(Image courtesy Phoenix Art Museum)
Part of my summer was spent trying to assess the overall art scene in Phoenix and environs. Are the museums venturing into little-known yet important territory in contemporary art? Are the Roosevelt Row galleries stepping up their game? Can I find at least a few regular go-to spots on Grand Avenue? Are there galleries in small pockets of Phoenix that are worth the drive?
I’m happy to say the answers are all “yes,” with some qualifications. Shows over the summer did rise with the heat to offer several bright spots, while other galleries remained in the summer doldrums. (Scottsdale Main Street and Marshall Way, I’m looking at you!)
But now it’s time to focus on September, and postulate that it’s a harbinger for a very strong fall season:
A bit of evidence (in alphabetical order):
ASU Art Museum — Sometimes we longtime Phoenicians overlook the international stature of this museum, not to mention the university as a whole. One of the important shows of the fall, with an international resonance, is “Shifting Sands: Recent Videos from the Middle East,” which is sure to provoke thought on the conflicts in Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan. Also still on view are the Andy Warhol portraits and a show that I’ve heard is good and hope to see soon, “In Solitude, Where We Are Least Alone.” Fellow blogger Lynn Trimble says the exhibit, featuring works from ASU’s permanent collection, is reverent toward the subject of solitude while inviting contemplation.
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum — From what the press materials tell me, it looks like I’ll be enjoying the circus without going to an actual circus (acrobats make me nervous, anyway). Five circus-themed shows have just opened, with the standout perhaps being “Ten-in-One,” presenting artists whose works embody the circus aesthetic with a contemporary twist. For good measure, another gallery features Philip C. Curtis’ circus art — a nice tribute to an Arizona icon.
Modified Arts — The Larry Kornegay/Bill Timmerman show was excellent, and this Roosevelt Row gallery is following quickly with Christine Cassano and Sean Thomas, opening Sept. 19. Judging from Cassano’s recent show at Bokeh Gallery in monOrchid, I am confident the artist — who works with found objects, computer parts and other media — will present intriguing site-specific installations and smaller works that are “a reconciliation of biology and technology,” as Christine phrases it.
Phoenix Art Museum — Okay, last chance to see the Antonio Berni show (through Sept. 21), a lovingly assembled survey of the Argentine artist’s sculptures, assemblages, works on paper, and his signature “xylo-collage” reliefs that transport viewers into the world of two fictional characters, Juanito and Ramona. Honestly, I can’t remember being so engrossed by a show for a long time.
R. Pela Contemporary Art — Nestled quietly away from the hustle and bustle of Roosevelt Row, R. Pela is fast becoming a haven for emerging and established regional artists. On Third Friday, Sept. 19, I hope to catch paintings by Jason Hugger and sculpture by Brad Konick and Thad Trubakoff. I’m especially eager to see Trubakoff’s “explorative art machines, with ties to tradition and nostalgia.”
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art — Secrecy, surveillance, threats to our civil rights, paranoia … these are just a few of the post-9/11 issues that will emerge in “Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns,” opening Sept. 28. Artists include Jenny Holzer, David Taylor, Kerry Tribe and Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 (love that name) with works in video, photography and other media. This is SMoCA’s only fall exhibit, a daring undertaking and an important one.
Also on my radar are upcoming shows at: the Phoenix Art Museum (mail art — yes, it’s a genre); monOrchid on Roosevelt Row; the Frontal Lobe Gallery on Grand Avenue; Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale; and Lisa Sette Gallery in midtown (Luis Gonzalez Palma!).
What’s on your art radar for the fall?
Credit, Antonio Berni at the Phoenix Art Museum: “Las vacaciones de Juanito [Juanito’s Vacation] ”
Acrylic and metals including car door and aluminum pan; rubber, wood, and fabrics including caps, jersey, and handkerchiefs; broom straw, paper, jute, nails, and staples on wood
80 13/16 x 117 1/2 in. (205.3 x 298.5 cm)
Private Collection, Madrid
© José Antonio Berni