Reviews of current exhibits, shows and installations

"My Favorite Year" at the Mill Avenue Post Office: Mill Avenue is one of the best pedestrian-friendly streets in the Valley, especially if you’re looking to rest your eyes on pretty things. Typically, those attractive things take the form of drunken young folk, but the display windows of the Post Office on Fifth Street have some good-looking art that’s worth a peek. Kenneth Richardson’s works are always a joy — meticulously rendered figures of characters one might see throughout the city, painted over collaged paper and all on top of a found street sign. Melanie Travis’ acrylic paintings have an impeccably sharp pop-art style. Most notable is a work that shows the top half of Smurfette’s head, her eyes peeking over the bottom edge of the canvas. Richardson and Travis emerge as the more desirable artists shown, but their relation to the theme isn’t strong. An impressive collaboration by Logan Bellew and Kristin Metzger may not be as mature, but it’s obvious they were aiming to explore the theme. These two recent high school graduates created a multimedia piece inspired by the artists’ collective experience of rejection, both in personal matters and from their recent applications to universities. An elevated platform covered with moss supports a large tree made from coils and tangles of bent wire. Quiet, contemplative photographs — from a young girl’s silhouette to shadowed branches — hang from the wires. Below the mossy platform is a floor littered with plastic tubing that curls among blue polished rocks. The tubing is stuffed with blue paper that has excerpts from rejection letters printed on them. Ouch. Admission is free. Through October 17 at the Mill Avenue Post Office, 500 S. Mill Ave, Tempe. 480-967-2001. www.tempe.gov/arts/exhibitions.

Photographs by Bill Timmerman, Tim Lanterman, and John Wagner at Modified Arts: Blame it on our Wild West roots of exploration: It seems that hopping in a car and poking around AZ is something we love to do. But with gas prices so high, it might be best to stay in town to check out Modified Art’s photography show, which looks and feels like an Arizona road trip. Both Wagner and Timmerman create sepia photos with their toned silver prints. Wagner plays with scale and shows photos in various print sizes, particularly deserted wastelands. Moving in and out of focus, his pieces create a nightmarish isolated feeling. Timmerman, on the other hand, prints all in one size and maintains razor-sharp focus. The works are mostly of desert landscape boasting our dramatic canyons and amazing rock formations. The two photographers make pretty pictures, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. Lanterman, with his digital color prints, concentrates on Arizona’s leafy wilderness. He, too, refuses to stay in focus, but the full color and glossy finish of green trees and blue skies shows another side of the state that isn’t so drab. Admission is free. Through September 15 at Modified Arts, 407 E. Roosevelt, Phoenix. Hours vary. 602-462-5516. www.modified.org.

"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 S. Rural Rd. 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.

 
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