Now In Its 14th Year, "Chaos Theory" Suffers from Predictability and Mediocrity

Who could have imagined that "Chaos Theory," a three-day, ragtag invitational art exhibition uncurated by artist Randy Slack of Legend City Studios, would hit its teenage prime and actually force local artists to hone their skills for public review?

Fourteen years ago, "Chaos Theory" borrowed its name, quite aptly, from the principle formulated by American mathematician Edward Lorenz that small differences in beginning conditions of a dynamical system will end up creating such different outcomes that long-term predictions about the system are basically impossible. For us math-phobic laymen, that means even a minor change in something's beginning can affect its ultimate outcome.

"Chaos Theory" ends up being the perfect moniker for this show, which started as a funky, ragingly uneven DIY show back in the day and has morphed into a highly anticipated annual event that will continue this year past its original one-weekend-only concept.

Lee Madrigal's Lee Green
Kathleen Vanesian
Lee Madrigal's Lee Green
The Molten Brothers' The International Clown Classic
Kathleen Vanesian
The Molten Brothers' The International Clown Classic

Location Info

Map

Legend City Studios

521 W. Van Buren St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

"Chaos Theory 14" will be open to the public on Third Friday (October 18) at Legend City Studios, 521 W. Van Buren St. during the Grand Avenue Festival on Saturday, October 19, and during the Downtown Chamber Music Series on Saturday, November 16.

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Closer Look: "Chaos Theory 14" at Legend City Studios

Not that "Chaos Theory 14" is the perfect exhibition, by any means, though participating artists seem to be taking their submissions more seriously than ever before. Still, this year's Legend City exhibition is plagued with enough predictability and mediocrity (not to mention passing topicality) to keep it from reaching any aesthetic apex.

The most disappointing facet of this year's show is its photography, which has none of the punch of last year's offerings. Brandon Sullivan's unremarkable Fuzzy with a Bite, a 3-foot-by-4-foot black-and-white print of jumping cholla backlit in a desert setting, would be more appropriate to some commercial gallery on Scottsdale's Main Street catering to Midwestern tourists. [Un]intended Targets by William Legoullon, a grid of rusty, disintegrating containers that used to contain flammable material, fails to be anything more than what it portrays. Jehu gives us yet another dollop of the Ten Dollar Project with Kyle Russ, a large black-and-white photograph of a disheveled man with a beard and matted hair, evoking none of the pathos of his anguished portrait of an African man from last year's show. David Michael Cook's color print of a weathered border patrol camera is less than inspiring, as is Brent Bond's Rising Son, a multi-paneled archival inkjet homage to his young son.

Maybe I've just seen too many SoCal-infused photographic images of lone surfers lugging short boards on isolated beaches and freeway construction scenarios — not to mention experiencing the banal reality of both — to be bowled over or even mildly engaged by Jon Balinkie's Beach Toys (yes, I saw the abandoned toddy on the beach, not that it makes any difference to this stereotypical shot) or Jesse Rieser's A Portrait of Los Angeles: Carmageddon, a stock shot of Interstate 405 under construction between Los Angeles, Mulholland Drive, and the San Fernando Valley.

God only knows what Wayne Rainey was thinking showing a staged shot of Little Red Riding Hood and an alleged wolf with garbage cans peeking through its forested backdrop. The piece was made even worse by a long, didactic explanation of the historical background of the fairy tale and its psycho-sexual significance. And Steve Yazzie dealt himself a cruel blow by displaying a snoozy digital still of a mountain taken from his multi-channel video installation, The Mountain, now showing at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe. Check out Yazzie's installation documentation at http://stevenyazzie.com/yazzie/The_Mountain.html, then dare to disagree with me.

This year's painting and multimedia entries fared much better, showing off solid technical skills of drawing, painting, and construction, all but lost in the breath-sucking miasma of that Neo-Conceptual and performative social studies craze that plagued us for way too long. For sheer mastery of form, Rachel Bess' Summer Snowstorm, a portrait of a bare-chested black man peering through a small magnifying glass at snowflake drawings hung from barely visible thread, is of note, as is Larry Madrigal's Lee Green, a frontal image of what first appears to be a black, haloed Buddha. I had to dig to discover that the person depicted is Lee Green, a performer in Phoenix's Christian rap scene, whose music videos are strikingly gritty, in a good way.

For me, this year's overall "Chaos Theory" winner is Moreno by Amelec Diaz, with Melissa Martinez's playful Shimmy, Shimmy, Shake, an installation of airborne fabric forms suggesting floating jellyfish, in second place. Diaz's powerful nine-panel painting on bumpy metal plate — whose title refers to non-pejorative Mexican Spanish for someone dark-skinned — weaves together images of pre-Columbian gold death masks (which happen to be from ancient Peruvian, not Mexican, cultures) with goofy, stereotypical Speedy Gonzalez cartoons and disfiguring graffiti.

A final note to artists who chose to deal with the politically and socially topical: I say unto you, tread carefully, or in 50 years no one will know who or what your work was originally about. To have extended shelf life, pop cultural references need to relate to objects or events that that are truly iconic, like Disneyland and man's first walk on the moon, both of which are historically crystallized and star in James Angel's painted construction, Time Dilation. The Molten Brothers had better pray that the bizarre, in-person convo between Kim Jong-un, the current Ultimate Grand Supreme leader of North Korea, and in-the-ozone B-baller Dennis Rodman (most recently appearing at a glitzy charity gala thrown by Leah Black on The Real Housewives of Miami), becomes burned into the brains of posterity. Otherwise, their joint multimedia collaboration, The Clown Classic, labeled with "Felix" and "Oscar" (of The Odd Couple), will be received in the future with head scratches.

 
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6 comments
Hotrodron Carlsten
Hotrodron Carlsten

Some clarification from Wayne Rainey on his process of his print and I quote "My print is a digital process and although it is all "real" and lit for the effect it has been tuned and adjusted for effect." Thanks Wayne for always making amazing art work and all that you do for the art scene here in Phoenix.

rainey1
rainey1

KV one other thought to consider. You posted pictures of artwork you obviously took your self and there is a problem there. You used a camera with a built in flash and therefore it reflected right back into the lens, causing a distortion and color shift,- it's called lens flare. It really changes the work and although I would be happy to provide a proper file for you to use I will not and have not given permission for you to edit/ change my work. Im not sure about the rest of the artists but copyright infringement is a big deal to me and Newtimes is now flirting with some very real liability. You better ask someone over there for some guidance. 

rainey1
rainey1

Sorry you were disappointed KV- I think it is an amazing group show and I am proud to be in it. You wont have to wait for divine response to find out what I was thinking when I planned my piece. This is what will be a series of photographs examining the relevance of the myths and "fairytales'" in  today's world. If you still need help just reread the synopsis again (it's not long and there are no real big words). Im not sure why you found my work didactic- perhaps there is something personal going on that triggered such a response. Regarding - "the alleged wolf" and garbage cans, those were ultimately the most important aspects of the shot so thanks for noticing but again read one more time if you need to and you'll understand I was not making a picture of LRR 200 years ago but one of her today. The school and alley could have been easily cropped out but are essential for my purposes, It's really a lot of fun when you think about it. All great stories and myths are constantly being rethought and retold. Maybe you can help/participate in the next one- would you happen to have a crown and a large mirror?

Mahira863
Mahira863

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Hotrodron Carlsten
Hotrodron Carlsten

Dear Ms. Kathleen Vanesian. Please stop coming to any art event in the Phoenix or the state of AZ. After reading your review of Chaos Theory, I feel you have no idea what was there or what these fine artist that we have in this city do. You missed the meaning behind all of the pieces and never took the time see what was going on behind the pieces. Let me try and help you a little on the ones you wrote about in your horrible review. Wayne Rainey piece was not photo shopped, not printed from a computer or doctored in any way as far as I know. Wayne took great time and effort to develop the print from film by hand in a dark room and I assume by exposing the print in different lights and exposure time he was able to darken certain areas and lighten others, thus producing a saturated velvet type picture that had some fooled thinking it was a velvet painting. Steven J. Yazzie print was from his installation in Sante Fe as you said. Steve did not do a disservice to himself at all. Steve is trying to show that a Native American artist can do so much more than a kokopelli painting for Scottsdale tourist in old town. You never even mention Brian Boner piece that was just full of so much meaning and depth. Brian has a way of putting so much depth in the faces of the subjects that he includes in his paintings and the execution is on par with what you might see in New York at the MET. Another piece that you failed to mention was a piece that was done by Gennaro Garcia. The Gennaro piece was so detailed you had to literately get your nose about 7 inches away to see all the detail that was in his piece. It was hand drawn with ink pen and had so many stories happening at the same time that reflected the culture in Phoenix that it was mind numbing to try and take it all in and made you think how maybe this piece was trying to tell the story of how Phoenix came to be. Your article also calls on all the artist to tread lightly on political and socially topics. How much more do you need than Dennis Roddman being a US wanna be ambassador to South Korea viewed as odd couple. In closing Randy Slack did a outstanding job once again and we should be grateful to him to open his space and his time to put on one of the best art shows in the state and dare I say the whole country.

John Jones
John Jones

Wow Kathleen Vanesian. You seem like a talented writer once you dig past the pretentious negativity. You wonder why local artist shutter to organize in an to effort benefit the creative climate in baron Arizona? Because when we do, we're dismissed as predictable by our only major independent artist publication. Please don't let this article deter you from venturing out to support these amazing artists and photographers!

 
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