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
"The Big Lebowski Tribute Show" at Wet Paint Gallery: The thing about a cult classic is that you either love it or you hate it. The same can be said for this funky, eclectic group exhibition paying homage to the Coen brothers' film. Devoted Lebowski fans may go gaga for painted bowling pins and graphic depictions of severed pinkie toes, but the meaning will be lost on everyone else. Still, there are some pieces that manage to transcend the "Dude-speak" language barrier. Alexander Scott Hughes' custom-painted retro lamp table would be at home in any swank bachelor pad, and the meticulously crisp lines of spray-paint artist Clay Elliot's character portraits are impressive. Pop-art lovers will appreciate John Koleszar's Donny's Urn, a Warhol-esque series of monochromatic Folgers coffee cans, while those in the know understand the tongue-in-cheek movie reference "buried" inside. Admission is free. Through Aug. 28. 203 E. 7th St., Tempe, 480-967-2002, www.wetpaintaz.com.
"David Pimentel: Legacy of an Artist and Educator" at Mesa Arts Center: The death of an artist usually brings instant notoriety and positive attention. In former ASU professor David Pimentel's case, the accolades are warranted. Look for his renowned series of copper vessels, each unique in form and crafted from a single sheet of copper, and Torchiere Lamp, a functional metal sculpture with thin sheets of glittering mica in lieu of glass. The exhibition also features work from the professor's greatest legacy the students he inspired, including MFA graduate John Tzelepis, whose magnetic steel tower follows the clean lines and aesthetic ideals of Pimentel's wall art. Admission is $3.50, free on Thursdays and second Sundays. Through Oct. 15. 1 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-644-6500, www.mesaartscenter.com.
"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.
"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 minaudières (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.