By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
Nelson Garcia at the Chocolate Factory:You can feel the throb of the tropics in Phoenix artist Nelson Garcia's surreal abstractions. Vivid colors undulate and biomorphic shapes seem to quiver with life in paintings and prints that show what his native Cuba feels like. The cigars, the heat, the humidity, the plants with giant leaves, the pillow-hipped women, the sugary coffee con leche, and the Santeria gods hover in the whirling explosions of color. You get the feeling if you looked at them long enough, they would morph into solid forms and leap off the wall. Not everybody can do that with a paintbrush. Through Sept. 30. 1105 Grand Ave., Phoenix, 602-920-7560.
"Emilio Pucci" at Phoenix Art Museum: Bikinis, gowns and minidresses covered in the Italian designer's geometric patterns and acid-bright colors trace his career from the 1950s to the 1970s in this exhibit in PAM's fashion gallery. The clothes are relics of an age when it was okay to call a flight attendant a stewardess, when James Bond movies were edgy instead of kitschy, when Jackie O. and Jacqueline Susann were A-listers. The clothes have been well-chosen: There, in the scarves and skirts, you can see the 1960s explode. Through Nov. 6. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222, phxart.org.
"Store 44 Reps" at MonOrchid: This group show of a dozen commercial artists, illustrators and photographers represented by the Scottsdale firm Store 44 Reps is untroubled by the weighty Mission of Art. These are just cool images. Palmer Saylor's takes on Old Masters paintings show a virtuoso's skill with a brush. Meredith Parmelee's striking candy-colored photographs of parakeets on flower branches make you realize how much the pet-store staples resemble anime characters. And Nil Ultra's battered close-up of the sport-striped door of a '70s muscle car turns an automobile into an ancient-looking abstraction from a 25-century archaeological dig. Through Sept. 30. 214 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602-253-0339, monorchid.com.
"Hector Ruiz: La Realidad (Reality)" at the Heard Museum: Phoenix artist Hector Ruiz fires a shot between the eyes of American values with wood carvings, block prints, and mixed-media assemblages that address racism, border issues and capitalism. A King Kong-size blonde crushes a hapless businessman in her manicured hands in Westernization, the papier-mâché installation that's the show's centerpiece, and the U.S. suburbs are depicted as a sea of faceless hands reaching for more consumer goods in Escape Diversity. Ruiz's work is as subtle as a baseball bat, but whispered messages go unheard in an age when no one seems to be paying attention. Through March 2006. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848, heard.org.
"Surrealism U.S.A." at Phoenix Art Museum: This spirited exhibition that includes works by artists such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Joseph Cornell and Robert Motherwell is the first major survey of American surrealism in 25 years. Some of the works are as melodramatic as a 13-year-old's art project. But whether the art and the ideas behind it are good or bad isn't the point. One of Surrealism's basic tenets was that such snotty aesthetic distinctions didn't amount to a hill of melted watches. It's an idea that lives to this day in popular culture. Through Sept. 25. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222.
"Will Wilson: Auto Immune Response" at the Heard Museum: How do you survive in a postapocalyptic world? According to Will Wilson, the key to survival lies in an understanding of the past. The Navajo photographer explores this, as well as the concepts of Native American identity and connection to the land, through a series of powerful, in-your-face, mixed-media and photo-based installations. Wilson draws from his own past (the alienation felt as a child in exile at Phoenix Indian School) and that of his people to produce moving images that challenge established stereotypes of Native American art and the people who create it. Most poignant is a life-size steel hogan -- a refashioning of the traditional dwelling and its contents as a result of exposure to Anglo society and technology. Auto Immune Response is part of the museum's series Artspeak: New Voices in Contemporary Art. Through September. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848.
"HOME: Native People in the Southwest" at the Heard Museum: The Heard ends a yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary by opening a huge new gallery that houses a larger and improved exhibition of Southwestern Native American art. The new exhibition organizes 2,000 objects by tribe instead of type, includes maps of each tribe's ancestral and modern lands, information about their history, and excerpts of interviews with living members of the tribe. The result is that HOME feels less like a showcase of treasures amassed on the cheap by rich white people and more like an explanation of the still-living cultures that produced them. Through 2020. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848, heard.org.
Dale Chihuly at Bentley Projects: Before Dale Chihuly became the godfather of art glass, he worked as a commercial fisherman to earn money for grad school. He brings this memory of the world beneath the waves to the glass works on exhibit at Phoenix's premier contemporary art gallery. Eight undulating pieces that look like they were plucked from a brilliantly colored coral reef seem to be lighted from within; the Confetti Seaform Set, a shell-shaped vessel full of biomorphic red, green and blue glass pieces, creates a gorgeous undersea world on a tabletop. On display indefinitely. 215 E. Grant St., Phoenix, 602-340-9200.