Art Junkies

TRA 25 Capsule busts into the Phoenix Art Museum

"We want to base ourselves in Phoenix and do things from here and travel," Wiggins said. "Phoenix will be great one day, and we'd like to be the guys -- you know -- the guys that make people say, What the fuck, these guys are from Phoenix?'"

But then they began talking to Brady Roberts, who was impressed by their monOrchid show and suggested the Capsule consider an installation for the Marshall Gallery. The trio developed a model, refined it over the past two and a half months, and the result is a delightful cacophony of color and images that borders on sensory overload. Even the museum security guards say they like the show.

Roberts says he drew inspiration from curator Dave Hickey's work on the monumental SITE Santa Fe Biennial in 2001. Hickey focused the show on the concept of "beau monde" -- a French term for beautiful world -- and showcasing each artist's interpretation of visual pleasure and beauty.

From left, Grant Wiggins, Mark Freedman and Oliver Hibert.
Emily Piraino
From left, Grant Wiggins, Mark Freedman and Oliver Hibert.

Details

Continues through February 15, 2004. Call 602-257-1222
Marshall Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central

"Then September 11 happened and people decided beautiful art maybe wasn't relevant anymore," Roberts says. But since then, through a variety of studio visits to California and Nevada, Roberts has uncovered some interesting responses to pop art. The show connects the burgeoning art scene in Phoenix to that of San Francisco, L.A.'s Chinatown, and the epicenter of American pop culture, Las Vegas.

All the artists chosen evoke the beau monde concept with a pop art bent, Roberts says.

"Fresh Paint" begins softly, Roberts explains, and each artist adds to the intensity, so touring the gallery is "like turning up the volume." First is Chris Ballantyne, and his quiet, generic suburban landscapes that are eerily devoid of life. Next is Mario Correa, who paints boxing rings from skewed angles as a metaphor for the artist's struggle to put paint on canvas.

Following Correa are visually stunning, whimsical airbrush paintings by Sush Machida Gaikotsu. (Roberts says the screams of roller-coaster riders atop Vegas' Stratosphere are clearly audible from Gaikotsu's studio as he paints.)

"And from that environment you go over the top," Roberts says, into the Capsule.

Getting there has been arduous and ultimately rewarding, the artists say, as they take a break in the final hours of preparation to reflect. In a week, the three men have transformed the trailer-size space from stark to spastic. They've created a world where the ground looks like the sky, clouds look like trees, and Stephen King and Joe Namath stare down the viewer. Paintings, murals, Plexiglas and giant feet surround you. You feel like you are participating in a painting from the moment you enter the room.

The carpet has a few wrinkles, and Wiggins never did find the time to figure out a way to make certain paintings rotate with the push of a button as he'd hoped. Yet all agree they've learned a great deal and are happy with the finished product.

Wiggins says that besides hanging the clouds, which took 18 hours, "The hardest part has been staying with it for the past two and a half months from beginning to end, concept to completion."

"I've never run a marathon before," Wiggins adds wearily, "but it kinda feels like we have. We work until 9 or 10 at night and then come home and do stuff until 1:30 or 2 in the morning. . . . You don't eat so well, you don't sleep enough, you drive a little too fast," he says, "but it's so fun, this is so much fun."

E-mail susy.buchanan@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8440.

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