Reviews of current exhibits, shows and installations

 Brandon Maldonado at Perihelion Arts: Maldonado’s paintings have a quirky and innocent appeal at first glance, but a closer look reveals surrealistic and complicated storytelling and a bubbly, and somewhat raunchy, illustrative style. He really shows his skill with a large oil painting called I Swallowed a Quarter. Maldonado’s dark humor is exposed in a silly scenario with a sexy nun, a smirking devil and a Day of the Dead-inspired skeleton in a rowboat with sinister squid tentacles lurking from below. Black Swan #2, a smaller work, doesn’t have the same glitz as Maldonado’s colorful paintings, but it’s more restrained and mature. The graphite drawing follows his cartoonish style and shows a topless woman with flowing curly hair that morphs into rising smoke from a bombed city. The image plays with ideas of sexuality, violence, and the angst of war. Free admission. Open Friday, May 18, from 6-10 p.m. and every Saturday 1:30-7 p.m. and by appointment. Runs through May 28. 1500 Grand Ave., Phoenix. Call 602-462-9120 or visit www.perihelionarts.com.

"Water Lust" at the Tempe Public Library’s Lower Level Gallery: The Tempe Public Library welcomes the summer heat with a theme we all can appreciate. Craig Cheply takes a political stand on water — or the lack thereof — with his surrealistic acrylic painting Lifelines and Battlelines. In the work, IV tubes siphon water from a glass container that floats in the foreground of a desert landscape. The liquid slowly drips into five Southwestern states. Janet Larson takes a lighter approach with her necklace, Falling Water, incorporating rust and avocado-colored beads to simulate a string of seaweed. Pretty, but so simple that it’s a disappointing take on the theme. Dan Collins’ series Flooding Phoenix offers more of a challenge with this message: “Be careful what you wish for.” Using three-dimensional satellite models, Collins digitally manipulates images of the Valley to create a hypothetical 1,000-year flood of Phoenix. Not such a bad thought, these days. Free admission. Through June 25. 3500 South Rural Rd., Tempe. Call 480-350-5183 or visit www.tempe.gov/library.

"Life in a Cold Place: Arctic Art from the Albrecht Collection" at the Heard Museum: The humble aesthetic of Grandma Moses — the self-taught early-20th-century folk artist — is beloved because it serves as a simple reminder of quaint, rural life in America, rich with homey traditions and collective practices of survival. This show offers a similar glimpse into the lives of the Inuit people in the Arctic regions of Siberia, coastal Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Kayaker’s Reflection by Kananginak Pootoogook is a beautiful stone-cut print — a straightforward design with stunning use of bold colors. The two-dimensional masses of printed ink tell a quick visual story of everyday life among the Inuit; a man paddling his kayak notes the practices of transportation along Arctic coastlines and waterways. Like a psychological inkblot test, the form offers various interpretations. If viewed vertically, the shapes reveal the silhouette of an Arctic hunter, exposing a force of duality within the image. The show ranges from that compelling work to less-impressive renderings limited to immature and childlike skill levels. Overall, the exhibition is worth a visit and will fill a hankering for the mystery and intrigue that pervades outsider art. Admission is $10; seniors $9; $5 for students with valid ID; children 6 to 12, $3; under 5 free. Through July 31. 2301 N. Central Ave. Call 602-252-8848 or visit www.heard.org.

Craig Cheply?s piece from the "Water Lust" exhibition at Tempe Public Library.
courtesy of Tempe Public Library
Craig Cheply?s piece from the "Water Lust" exhibition at Tempe Public Library.

"Connecting Cultures: Art from the Hispanic Research Center collection, Arizona State University" at Phoenix Airport Museum: The title of this show is a turnoff. True, some of it is disappointing. But the sum is not a complete waste. Take Marion C. Martinez’s Madre Querida (Beloved Mother), a piece that juxtaposes the Catholic affection toward symbols of religious maternity with the worship and reliance practiced with modern-day electronics. Martinez uses circuit boards, computer discs and cable wire to create the familiar image of the Virgen de Guadalupe. The maternal icon historically has provided a source of wisdom, purity and safety. Using electronic bits to render the Mexican Catholic mother figure exposes a contemporary quandary: Modern humans depend on computers and other electronic gadgets for guidance as much as society once relied on religion. The other works on display were created by different Hispanic artists, each commenting on their cultural background through painting, sculpture and graphic prints. Works are in Terminal 4, level 3 west, at 3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Call 602-273-2105 or visit http://phoenix.gov/skyharborairport.

"Draw Me a Picture" at the Heard Museum: Steven Yazzie — the It Boy of the local art scene — has a show at a major museum. Too bad it’s not a show of the work we’ve grown accustomed to from him, amazing paintings that showcase his true talent. Yazzie took a risk with “Draw Me a Picture,” so named because he drew pictures while driving a cart. The result? Um, don’t drive and draw. Admission is $10; seniors $9; $5 for students with valid ID; children 6 to 12, $3; under 5 free. Through September 2. 2301 N. Central Ave. Call 602-252-8848 or visit www.heard.org.

 
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