Make sure to divert your eyes heavenward as you wander into the exhibition gallery, or you'll miss a number of impressive pieces, including an untitled grouping of ethereal plastic chandelier-like forms by made in 2008 by Jorge Pardo of Cuba. Floating in space, they resemble enormous dandelions or maybe nascent novas exploding silently in a faraway galaxy. Pardo always walks the tightrope between design and art, and he does so quite effectively in this installation.

Farther down the main aisle, a shiny silver cloud formation made of fiberglass covered with titanium alloy foil, Cloud Prototype No. 4 (2006) by Spain's Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, hovers over museum-goers. Depending on where you stand, the floating form glows a nuclear red-orange, a result of its metallic surface reflecting the raw colors in Rafter: Hell Act II (1993), a nearby painting by Cuba's Luis Cruz Azaceta. Azaceta's focal point is a small raft with a large black sail, manned by a large-headed man, drifting away from a lineup of gun muzzles and knive points through a sea of black discs. A grid suggestive of the pattern one sees through a gun's telescopic sight is superimposed on the raft. There is complete ambiguity as to whether the lone rafter is drifting toward or away from the armaments that stand guard on the right side of the painting.

Azaceta clearly is referencing the flight of Cubans on small boats and rafts to U.S. shores during the Mariel boatlift of 1980. According to Hunter S. Thompson, it was "the great Cuba-to-Key West Freedom Flotilla . . . a bizarre and massively illegal 'sea lift' which involved literally thousands of small private boats that brought more than 100,000 very volatile Cuban refugees [including mental patients and prison inmates] to this country in less than three months and drastically altered the social, political, and economic realities of South Florida for the rest of this century."

Rafter: Hell Act II by Luis Cruz Azaceta of Cuba
Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum
Rafter: Hell Act II by Luis Cruz Azaceta of Cuba

Location Info


Phoenix Art Museum

1625 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Museums

Region: Central Phoenix


"Order, Chaos, and the Space Between" runs through May 5 at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave. Call 602-257-1222.

In another provocative sculptural installation, Felix Gonzales Torres, born in Cuba and master of latter-day minimalist "process art" of the 1980s and '90s, invites viewers to take a piece of his simple rectangular floor installation, which consists of 75 pounds of hard green candy. Seventy-five pounds is what Torres' life partner, Ross Laycock, weighed at the time of his death from AIDS. It's a potent metaphor for not only the sweetness of life, but also how the devastating disease literally consumes its victim until basically nothing is left of him physically.

Space doesn't permit me to describe other equally compelling pieces included in "Order/Chaos." This is an exhibition you have to revisit repeatedly in order to fully appreciate its breadth and quality. Inevitably, private art collections are driven by the vision of their collectors, which at times can be embarrassingly hit or miss. We're lucky to play host to Diane and Bruce Halle's Latin American collection, one formed by a genuine passion and keen eye for important art produced in countries the international art world ignored for far too long.

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22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all form of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings," substituting shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.

23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. " Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."

 Plenty of "repulsive, meaningless art" in Phoenix - and I'm not even counting the apparent (and ridiculous) outdated trend of inking up one's arms, especially a favorite of tubby, unpopular white girls.