Reviews of current exhibits, shows and installations

Fausto Fernandez at The Latin American Art Gallery:We all need a little instruction — something to give us direction and guidance. Without it, we’d be flailing aimlessly in this life, accidentally screwing each other over in a nonsensical world of no consequence. Fausto Fernandez taps into the need for rules by using maps, blueprints, and sewing patterns in his paintings. He takes three intricately drawn images, cuts them into strips and lays them in an alternating pattern as the backdrop. In the foreground, he paints bold geometric patterns in bright colors. In his first major solo exhibition, the works are attractive. Unfortunately, however, that simple description can be applied to each of his paintings in the show. While each piece is somewhat compelling on its own, they become repetitive when seen together. Still, Fernandez creates images with enough thought and visual appeal to make a visit worthy. Admission is free. Through August 11, 7610 East McDonald Ste. C., Scottsdale. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 480-571-8474 or visit www.thelatinamericanartgallery.com.

"Conversations" at Art Connections CafĂ© at the Tempe Library:What better place to display paper-based artwork than a library? Local artist Katherine Nicholson used her handmade paper to collect bits of nature by soaking it in the Salt River. But she didn’t stop there for these outdoors-inspired works. She also used clay as a host to embed other natural treasures found in the desert and copper etching plates to record animal tracks. The works are pretty and ethereal and make a recording of the nature that she so obviously loves. Her work, thrown against Jeff Falk’s clean-cut and intellectual aesthetic, makes an interesting visual mix. Falk is showing new collage pieces, done in his neatly trimmed style, using text, book pages, and paint. They’re childlike and nostalgic, with his illustrations from 1950s-style children’s books overlapped with stencil work. Both artists obviously chose work that is easy for the public to digest, typical of what you would expect to see at a library. Admission is free. It runs through September 19 at the library, 3500 South Rural Road. Call 480-350-5500 or visit www.tempe.gov/arts/ events/cafe.

"Industrial Tribalism: The Art of Dave Kowalski" at the West Valley Art Museum: If you have a habit of Dumpster-diving for undiscovered goodies, you may run into artist Dave Kowalski, who hustles trash heaps for his art supplies. With his multimedia sculpture and Native American aesthetic, Kowalski successfully incorporates odd throwaway objects like scrap iron, bits of glass, and the occasional car jack. It may sound like ugly junk, but the result is fetching, as he uses hair, animal skins, cut glass, feathers, and neon. Kowalski obviously has a sense of humor, as seen in the title Cactus Wren From Hell, a piece in which he embraces a gnarly knot in a branch — carving it into a snarling bird that acts as the base of a lamp, complete with wrought-iron lampshade. Overall, the show is beautifully executed. Definitely trashy, but in a good way. Admission is $7. It runs through September 16 at the museum, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts (114th Avenue and Bell Road) in Surprise. Call 623-972-0456 or visit www.wvam.org.

"Automotivated" at the Phoenix Art Museum, Fashion Design Gallery: If the cars in PAM’s “Curves of Steel” show were enough to get you revved up, check out the fashion gallery for more aerodynamic designs. The dresses on display are sleek, shimmering silks and satins from the 1930s — fabrics that cling to a smooth, streamlined shape. The automotive influence is most obvious in Jeanne Lanvin’s 1931 Wedding Dress,which is constructed with visible geometric panels of fabric, much like the welded plates of a car’s body. Whoever wore this dress down the aisle was cutting carbs and hitting the gym (or its 1931 equivalent) because she had to be svelte to pull this one off. The show definitely could’ve skipped the scary underwear display that includes faded, old, elastic body suits. They’re interesting from a technical perspective, but fat-sucker suits on mannequins? Eeew. Despite the minor panty problems, the show has plenty more beautiful gowns sure to get your motor running. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $4 for children, free to all on Tuesday evenings. Through September 2. 1625 N. Central Ave, Phoenix. Cal (602) 257-1222 or visit www.phxart.org.

"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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