Visual Arts

2015 Arizona Biennial Spotlights Phoenix Artists at Tucson Museum of Art

The Arizona Biennial, which has the distinction of being the longest-running juried exhibition featuring exclusively Arizona artists, returns this month. First organized in 1948, the exhibition’s current iteration opens on July 25 at Tucson Museum of Art.

More than 1,490 works were submitted, and 50 pieces were selected for the 2015 exhibition by guest curator Irene Hoffman, director and chief curator of SITE Sante Fe — an art space that exhibits contemporary works, and has presented a biennial international exhibition of contemporary works since 1995.

About a third of the artists selected for the "2015 Arizona Biennial" live and work in metropolitan Phoenix. They include David Emitt Adams, Denis Gillingwater, Alan Bur Johnson, Carolyn Lavender, Anthony Pessler, Emmett Potter, Rembrandt Quiballo, Patricia Sannit, Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars, Zachary Valent, and Grant Wiggins.

The exhibition "represents ambitious and thought-provoking ideas as well as works that captivate the senses," according to Julie Sasse, who is the museum's chief curator and curator of modern and contemporary art. "It shows that contemporary art in Arizona is fully competitive with the rest of the country in formal concerns while addressing the specific qualities of place and culture that make this state so unique." 

Those who frequent the metro Phoenix art scene will recognize several of their works selected for this show. Adams’ tintype photography on found objects work is currently on view in the “One-of-a-Kind” exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum. Alan Bur Johnson’s Murmuration 13:00:47, an installation created with transparencies, small circular metal frames, and pins, was part of an early 2015 exhibition called "The Brief Forever" at Lisa Sette Gallery.

Zachary Valent’s newspaper and wood Stratum was part of Shemer Art Center’s “New Art Arizona" exhibition earlier this year. And projections by Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars have been featured in last year's “Chaos Theory” exhibition at Legend City Studios, Mesa Arts Center and at the Phoenix Art Museum — where they were recently part of an exhibition featuring 2014 Contemporary Forum Grant recipients.

Still, it can be exciting to see familiar works in new settings. And a road trip to Tucson is rarely a hard sell given the abundance of street art, public art, and art spaces.

Four metro Phoenix artists, each working in a different medium, had three of their works accepted into the show. In addition to Adams' tintypes, viewers will see Gillinger’s digital photographs, Lavender’s graphite and acrylic pieces, Pessler’s graphite on panel works, and Wiggins’ acrylic on canvas paintings.

Tempe artist Rembrandt Quiballo is showing a 3-minute video titled Spector. Patricia Sannit of Phoenix is showing her ceramic Follow the River. Another Phoenix artist, Emmett Potter, is showing his 2013 Blue Chrome Bomb comprising powder coat on an inert 100 pound bomb from the Vietnam era.

The list of works reveals an assortment of media, including fiberglass window screening, maple, carbon fiber, tape, Kevlar, porcelain, hardware, picket fence, Astroturf, cardboard tubes, pine needles, paper, fabric, rust, spruce, turmeric, perforated mesh, steel, ebony, sawdust obtained in exchange for the artist’s labor, and more. Even a burrito made it into this mix.

Most of these works were created in 2014 or 2015, although a few 2012 or 2013 pieces are included as well. Video selections include Abigail Felber’s Charm School for Marshmallow and Prone to Collapse by Ellen McMahon and Beth Weinstein — an experiential piece previously shown during a 2015 “Balance/Unbalance” conference at Arizona State University.

While we're eager to see works by metropolitan Phoenix artists, but several additional works as well – including Jennifer Holt’s An Act of Futility, a bone-colored porcelain piece that looks like a child’s wagon and holds a delicate tumbleweed. Exhibited last year at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum, it’s breathtaking.

“Arizona Biennial 2015” runs July 25 to October 11 at Tucson Museum of Art. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for students (with college ID) and youth ages 13-17. Children 12 and under are free. Find more information on the Tucson Museum of Art website

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble