Art Scene

A look at five Valley art exhibits.

 "Imagine That!" at the West Valley Art Museum: The current selection at this oft-forgotten spot includes an exhibition organized by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum titled "Imagine That! A Whimsical Take on Nature." The idea was to challenge traditional wildlife artists to create images of fictional animals -- merging species, switching characteristics, placing them in new contexts. New York artist Alexis Rockman has done well with the concept in his series of works exploring the issues surrounding genetics research. The result at West Valley is sometimes a little more cute than socially biting, but overall there are some intriguing forms and a lot of really well-executed paintings. Highlights include Nicholas Wilson's feathered bunnies, Richard Sloan's Grazing Hammerhead Storks, and David Rankin's animalistic versions of Megabytes (wart hog-ish) and Pixels (stork-like birds). Through August 29 at the West Valley Art Museum, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts (114th Ave. and Bell Rd.), Surprise, 623-972-0635. -- G.C.C.

7th Avenue Streetscape: The new light box installation on Seventh Avenue north of Indian School Road is not your typical public art project. Unlike most, its artwork will change twice a year, giving the neighborhood a vibrant boost and artists a round of opportunities to get their work out on the street. The revitalization project is one of the city's liveliest to date and proof that there is still creative energy -- and, more important, support for it -- in the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. Composed of three large, double-sided, Plexiglas panels lighted from inside and placed within a newly landscaped plot, the artworks on display are actually reproductions of paintings by local artists Quetzal Guerrero, Elizabeth Pfeiffer and Erin Sotak. Selected by a panel that included the area's business owners and residents, the location has actual potential to become a local gathering spot -- especially as the panels change every six to eight months, earning the site its intriguing tag line of "an ongoing urban gallery." Current works up through December, intersection of Seventh Ave. and Glenrosa, 602-262-4637. -- G.C.C.

"Flights of Fancy" at Sky Harbor Airport: Nestled in six wall cases on the way to Southwest and America West gates is another of the Sky Harbor Art Program's engaging exhibitions. "Flights of Fancy" includes artwork by 26 Arizona artists all relating to flight as a metaphor for fun, freedom and escape. From Robert Brubaker's stout ceramic Bob Dog, Ready for Anything, to Linda Ingraham's ethereal photos of birds, the range of interpretations of flight is what gives life to these shallow cases we all pass as we hurry to our own flights. Humor is a key element in many of the works. My favorites are Henry Gatewood's Hopi Koshari riding an America West plane (ironically placed near the Southwest wing) and a pilot with an uncharacteristically small head by S. Mindrum-Logan titled My Husband Is an America West Pilot: I Love a Man With a Jumbo Jet. Curator Lennee Eller says "there's something for everybody -- a real diversity of materials and approaches." Through August 1 on Level 3, Terminal 4, Sky Harbor Airport, 602-273-8863. -- G.C.C.

"southwestNET: PHX/LA" at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: Not one of SMoCA's finest presentations, "PHX/LA" promises a fresh look at the Southwest's unique version of urban life in Phoenix and Los Angeles, with all its attendant glories and problems, but fails overall to deliver much in the fresh department. The works of two Phoenix artists, Colin Chillag and Matthew Moore, and five L.A. artists, Steve Roden, Brian Cooper, Shirley Tse, Keith Sklar and Jared Pankin, are supposed to illustrate this theme. As usual, Chillag's paintings (three of which were recently shown at downtown's Modified Arts) are keepers. A sound-and-sculpture installation by Roden inspired by California modernist architect Wallace Neff's "bubble houses" from the 1940s, together with a gigantic, free-for-all painting by Sklar, make this otherwise wan excuse for a show from being a complete waste of a museum trip. Through September 5 at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale, 480-994-ARTS. Reviewed May 13. -- K.V.

"Double Vision" at the Phoenix Art Museum: There's a surprising harmony among the works of San Antonio artist Constance Lowe and Los Angeles artist Alicia Beach in their joint exhibition. Both manage to tame bright colors into soft, psychedelic tones. Both start from a central axis and create balanced, even images -- Beach by drawing two-handed and Lowe by drawing on one side of a Mylar sheet, then flipping it and repeating. Lowe's works are closer to her inspirational Rorschach ink blots, while Beach's have a wispier, more botanical feel, but they meld well together in one show because of their color and form. Although neither artist claims any intention to create particular objects with these abstract shapes, many of LoweÕs pieces look like CAT-scan shots of body parts like skulls and uteruses -- the latter emphasizing the very feminine feel of the artwork in general. "Double Vision" is at the Phoenix Art Museum in the upstairs Marshall Gallery through August 15. 1625 N. Central Ave., 602-257-1880. -- G.C.C.

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