Do Pho Is Go

The downtown art scene launches itself in fits and starts on First Fridays

On that note, if you're more interested in the artwork than the scene, make sure you go around on the early side, and you might want to go back to the most popular spaces on Saturday or on a Friday that isn't the first in the month. What looks good on a crowded Friday night, as glimpsed through the throng, doesn't always stand up to scrutiny.

At eye lounge, the artist-run space on Roosevelt that has a generally rewarding show of small works up this month, Jennifer Urso's Message Sent looked intriguing on Friday: A light bulb glowed in a glass jar, out of which crept some vine-like wires festooned with little pieces of scorched paper. But when I went back and looked at it more closely, I was disappointed. The materials were still appealing, but the ideas behind them didn't add up, emotionally or logically. What did the wires have to do with the electrical source? Why was there no hint, even subliminal, of the nature of the message?

On the other hand, Sue Chenoweth's The Trees Provide a Network, which had struck me as drab and kind of busy when I saw it on Friday, proved, on closer inspection the next day, to be a miniature marvel. A Christmas tree decked with candy canes on the left panel balances an orange tree with branches made up of stylized swoops on the right. A few well-placed blobs and drips of white and silver paint decorate the panels and remind us of the artist's hand at work. Embedded in the panel, among the oranges in the tree, are tiny pearls. The overall effect is of an illustration for a Russian folk tale as rendered by Klimt.

The buss stops here: Carrie Bloomston's Untitled (Kissing Drawing) is displayed at eye lounge this month.
Carrie Bloomston
The buss stops here: Carrie Bloomston's Untitled (Kissing Drawing) is displayed at eye lounge this month.

Details

Call Artlink at 602-256-7539 or Scott Sanders at the Paper Heart Gallery, 602-262-2020, or visit Artlink's Web site at www.artlinkphoenix.com.

It's also true that once in a while, something that looked great on First Friday will look even better in the light of day, like Carrie Bloomston's five small pieces, which are simply wonderful. In Untitled (Kissing Drawing), for example, Bloomston transforms a series of vertical lipstick kisses on paper into little embracing creatures by drawing arms and legs on the top and bottom of each mouth. The tiny tuber-shaped couples are sweet but not cute. Bloomston's other pieces in the show likewise demonstrate versatility and vision. Her solo exhibition of oil paintings on wood and on canvas, opening at eye lounge in January, promises to be one of the season's highlights.

If you do happen to come late to First Friday, when the crowds have already swelled, getting swept up in the scene is an integral part of the experience. Where else can you stumble across a 23-year-old artist who's opened up his house -- or, as he calls it, "his living quarters" -- to visitors? Friday night, on the front lawn at 412 East Garfield, a homemade sign illuminated by tiki torches announced "Mainstay," which is what Fidel Contreras has decided to call his home/art space for now. Contreras sat on a bench on his front porch, watching people stream in to admire his frenzied little wire people and raw autobiographical paintings. (His titles are terrible, but his work is not.)

"Yes, ma'am," he answered a woman politely. His eyes were invisible under the brim of his vaguely military hat, and a thin ring looped through one of his nostrils, but he sounded just as polished as any gallerist on Marshall Way. "We'll be open every First Friday."

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