"Landscapes in the Fireplace: The Paintings of Pedro Alvarez": This exhibition is a bittersweet experience for those familiar with this well-loved young Cuban artist and his irony-laced work. A collection of Alvarez's most recent paintings, ASU's exhibition unwittingly stands as a final tribute to the irreverent spirit that infuses his complex, multilayered paintings, since Alvarez committed suicide on February 12, 2004, in Tempe. To the end, his work put a tongue-in-cheek spin on less-than-lighthearted historical experience, including Latin American colonization, racism, cultural stereotyping and, of course, American globalization. Through June 19 at the Arizona State University Art Museum's Nelson Fine Arts Center, 10th St. and Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-965-2787. Reviewed April 1. -- K.V.
Temporary Public Art Projects at Burton Barr Central Library: Next time you stop by the Burton Barr Central Library -- maybe to catch the First Fridays shuttle, maybe to pick up a good book -- don't miss two of the temporary installations from Art Detour weekend that remain on display. Zarco Guerrero's "Beyond Boulders" is outside near the southeast corner of the building. The three petite versions of monumental pre-Columbian Olmec carved stone heads seem to be watching over the Deck Park crowd and, for the artist, "represent the blending of all races into the universal cosmic man/woman." Inside the library is Richard Hermann's nine-foot-tall, red vinyl llama. Looking like a great big red punching bag -- or, since it's positioned near the children's section, maybe a partner to one of those jumping castles you see at kids' birthday parties -- Hermann's llama is a playful contemplation of the natural world. Both works are part of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture's Artist Initiative. Through May at the Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., 602-356-3521. -- G.C.C.
Walt Wooten at the Heard Museum: Hanging on national-museum-style red walls in the Heard Museum's petite Lovena Ohl Gallery are 10 large paintings of Native American men in 19th-century traditional clothing, depicted standing before some of art history's most famous works in the Louvre. Based on the story of the Ojibwa men who traveled to Paris for the opening of his exhibition, New Mexico painter Walt Wooten has juxtaposed the two worlds that collided during this visit to the effect of making us wonder how they could have ended up there at all. The paintings are large and dramatic in the small gallery, and their quiet elegance heightens the odd feeling of looking at two very disparate subjects in one scene. Although the compositions are a bit cluttered by so many clothing details, the subtle drama of the scenes is worthy of contemplation. Through May 2 at the Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave., 602-252-8840. -- G.C.C.
"In Stitches" at the Tempe Public Library: Curated by former Phoenix artist Linda Lewis and sponsored by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, "In Stitches: Humor in Contemporary Fiber Art" expands our perception of artwork based on stitchery. The artists have enlisted sometimes subtle, and other times outright comical, humor to go beyond the expected fine embroidery or hand sewing. In fact, many of the works are only linked to fiber art because of the nature of their materials. Pieces like Lewis' Old Bag incorporate a real vacuum cleaner with a bag created by the artist out of a shredded Jane Fonda workout book. Julia Latanè's vinyl Acorn and Peanut make use of the Pop Art style of vamp. Betty Bivins Edwards' two large 3-D wall hangings have a British kitsch (think Wallace & Gromit) that's both bawdy and endearing. Virginia Sardi and Janet Bardwell offer humor that's a bit darker -- Sardi's upside-down, sugar and wax-coated stuffed bunny and Bardwell's hand-embroidered translucent untitled bag of "shame" are enough to make even the jaded visitor snicker. Through Monday, April 19, at the Tempe Public Library, 3500 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, 480-350-5179. -- G.C.C.
Chicano(a) Art: From the M.A.R.S. Collection at ASU Art Museum: In 1978, a group of artists and community leaders formed an artists' cooperative, Movimiento Artistico del Rio Salado (M.A.R.S.), to promote visual and performing arts by contemporary Arizona, Mexican-American and Chicano artists. After years of exhibiting around the Valley, the group settled in a downtown Phoenix location in 1981. The space closed and disbanded in 2003. From the archives of limited-edition prints produced by members to support the gallery, M.A.R.S. donated 43 to the ASU Art Museum, where they're now on display. With pieces like Carmen Lomas Garza's Las Peleoneras, depicting two women in a hair-pulling catfight outside the El Rio bar, there's plenty of vibrant imagery that conveys the cultural pride and printmaking mastery that the M.A.R.S. artists brought to downtown Phoenix. Through May at the ASU Art Museum's Nelson Fine Arts Center, 10th St. and Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-965-2787. -- G.C.C.
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