James Angel at Modified Arts: Artist James Angel is living proof that you can go home again. Faded, dusty road signs against a tea-stained neutral background evoke memories of family vacations in his Cosmopolitan, and the magically delicious breakfast cereal becomes a surface for "tagging" in Lucky G. But it's the Star Wars images that ultimately bring us into Angel's childhood. Storm Troopers aim at neighboring paintings, and a shaded, modeled C3PO dominates a landscape reminiscent of grandma's Amish quilt. Darth Vader peers out from the trees in A Hero's Journey, his likeness and moniker scrawled as if by the hand of Angel's inner child. Admission is free. Through April 21. 407 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602-462-5516, www.modified.org. -- W.H.
"Air-Conditioned" at Shemer Art Center: If you've had your fill of mountain landscapes and embroidered cactuses, be forewarned -- Shemer doesn't offer much in the way of new tricks for America's fifth-largest city. There are some exceptions, like Paho Mann's Re-Inhabited Circle K series, images of former cookie-cutter convenience stores reincarnated as a Mexican grocery, a taco stand and a camera shop. Look for digs at our growing commercialism, from Steve Ferguson's photograph of hundred-year-old saguaros dwarfed by power lines to Daniel Friedman's Encroachment, a rebar tower supported by brick and rock that visually threatens to pluck Nancy Green's Superstition Poppies. Yes, it's scenic. Yes, it's dry. But next time, tell us something we don't know about Phoenix. Admission is free. Through May 4. 5005 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-262-4727, www.phoenix.gov/PARKS/shemer.html. -- W.H.
"Father and Son Exhibition" at Figarelli Fine Art: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree when it comes to sculptor Allan Houser Haozous and his son, Phillip. Father's influence can be seen in the familial depictions dominating Phillip's work -- brothers embracing, mothers clinging to infants. But the younger Haozous brings a modern, cubist influence to his work; the linear shapes contrast sharply with the fluid curves of his father's bronze sculpture Like a Dream, featured at the opening of the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian. Admission is free. Through May 30. 7610 E. McDonald Dr., Scottsdale, 480-609-7077, www.figarellifineart.com. -- W.H.
"Connections to the Land" at Chandler Center for the Arts: First, a study of a pear. Next, an apple. Oh, no! What lurks around the corner? A breakfast still-life? Breathe a sigh of relief. Abstract landscapes inspired by the likes of Cézanne and Rothko make up the bulk of Ruth Knowles' solo exhibition. Her unique acrylic painting technique simulates the look of oil: dark and heavy, weighted by thick impasto and broad brushstrokes. Saffron and crimson squares struggle to break free from rivers of muted brown and black that cascade down the canvas like native tears. So what does it all mean? "A painting does not have to mean," Knowles comments beneath one work. "A painting just is." Ahhh . . . modernists. Admission is free. Through Saturday, April 15. 250 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler, 480-782-2680. -- W.H.
Carol Cassidy and the Laos Weavers at Mesa Arts Center: An expert for the United Nations weaving program, American Carol Cassidy blends the ancient tradition of weft ikat weaving with modern design innovations. The exhibition includes Cassidy's jewel-toned wall hangings as well as historical examples of headgear and clothing worn by Laotian women. Bands of vibrant pink elephants dance around the edge of one Lowland Lao sin (skirt) on display, while others have hidden Buddhist motifs representing karma and rebirth. Check out the centerpiece, a wooden loom used by the factory workers at Cassidy's Lao Textiles, and maybe next time someone waltzes into the room wearing a pashmina shawl, you'll appreciate the sweat and tears that went into its construction. Admission is $3.50. Through May 28. 1 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-644-6501, www.mesaartscenter.com. -- W.H.
"Big City" at Phoenix Art Museum: There isn't a single image of the PHX among the cityscapes and urban life scenes drawn from PAM's permanent collection. That's odd, seeing as how we're the nation's fifth or sixth largest metropolis. The omission is partly because of the age of the work, the newest of which was made in the late 1970s when Phoenix was still a cow town on steroids. There are lots of classic Industrial Age images of skyscraper-chocked Eastern cities by masters like John Sloane and Reginald Marsh, but no Information Age images of upstart cities like Houston or Phoenix where all is horizontal. The portrait of the city is incomplete because it omits the past quarter-century, but "Big City" is still worth checking out. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, free to all on Thursdays. Through May 7. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222, www.phxart.org. -- L.P.
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