By Benjamin Leatherman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Katrina Montgomery
By Robrt L. Pela
By Kathleen Vanesian
By New Times
By Ray Stern
By Eric Tsetsi
"Annual Summer Juried Exhibition" at ASU Harry Wood Gallery: This year's crop of MFA hopefuls shows a surprising awareness of domestic issues including water conservation, racial profiling and changing family values. Look for tongue-in-cheek political lampoons, like Exhibitions Class Award winner Corie J. Cole's ceramic caricatures of cowboy Bush and his Elmer Fudd sidekick. The well-modeled figures grin over the carcass of a white elephant, gold blood dripping from two bullet holes in its head. In R. Eric McMaster's Lawn Ornament, a molded plastic businessman perches in Astroturf. He wears a tight suit and tie, and flashes the frozen grin of a good corporate drone. These young artists can't predict the future, but they certainly seem to know what awaits them in the real world. Admission is free. Through Sept. 8. ASU Art Building, Forest and Tyler malls, Tempe, 480-965-3468, http://art.asu.edu/gallery/hwood.
"Hidden Memories" at Herberger Theater Center: If Herberger's latest group exhibition is indicative of the childhood memories of local artists, then they all must have wanted to be actors when they grew up. Each piece shows a flair for theatricality, from James Angel's nostalgic road sign prints to a trio of reconstructed old-time radios. Jeanne Collins' hanging ceramic masks create a wall of dramatic faces, some twisted and distorted as if afflicted with the Phantom of the Opera's unfortunate condition. Anne Howey's A Father's Daughter depicts a young girl fantasizing in her father's docked boat; floating down an imaginary river like Waterhouse's pre-Raphaelite Lady of Shalott. Admission is free. Through June 28. 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix, 602-254-7399, http://www.herbergertheater.org.
"Judy Cook: Images From the Heart" at West Valley Art Museum: There's nothing inherently wrong with showcasing sketches in an exhibition, as long as they are marked as such. Unfortunately, Judy Cook presents her ballpoint pen studies of trees side-by-side with the vibrant paintings they inspired. In Return to Eden #4, ancient limbs twist and bend to form an abstract representation of the African continent. Hot pinks and silvery blues swirl on the surface, the bright colors and surreal forms evoking thoughts of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. Concentrate on the paintings and maybe you'll see the clearing through those stark ballpoint trees. Admission is $7, $2 for students. Through July 23. 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts, Surprise, 623-972-0635, www.wvam.org.
"Holy Land: Diaspora and the Desert" at the Heard Museum: Something is definitely missing here. Only one Israeli artist is represented, and the closest thing to Jewish art is a photographic series exploring the Dead Sea. Still, this exhibition is worth checking out, even if just to ponder the meaning of Einar and Jamex de la Torre's Maybe, a Mayan head sputtering abstract poetry attached to a weathered camper, which even the museum's docents can't figure out. The most telling piece is the multimedia installation Treehouse Kit, in which artist Guy Ben-Ner is shown deconstructing and reassembling an abstract wooden tree to form basic necessities -- a bed, table, chair and umbrella. It proves that even when there's nothing to work with, we'll find a way to connect the dots. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for students. Through Dec. 31. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848, www.heard.org.
"Art in Hand: Judith Leiber Handbags" at Phoenix Art Museum: Can a purse be a work of art? Perhaps, if it was designed by Hungarian-born artist Judith Leiber, whose jeweled evening bags have been carried by every first lady since Nancy Reagan and had a cameo (albeit not a very gracious one) on Sex and the City. Leiber's minaudires (small metal cases) feature bold hues and nontraditional shapes, including fruits, vegetables and a variety of wildlife from polar bears to Scottie dogs. Don't miss the Bundle of Asparagus, featuring more than 10,000 hand-applied Austrian crystals in varying shades of eggplant, lavender and olive. The subtle color transitions in each stalk and leaf showcase Leiber's talent as museum-worthy. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, free to all on Thursdays. Through Aug. 27. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222, www.phoenixartmuseum.org.