"Hector Ruiz: La Realidad (Reality)" at the Heard Museum: Phoenix artist Hector Ruiz fires a shot between the eyes of American values with wood carvings, block prints, and mixed-media assemblages that address racism, border issues and capitalism. A King Kong-size blonde crushes a hapless businessman in her manicured hands in Westernization, the papier-mch installation that's the show's centerpiece, and the U.S. suburbs are depicted as a sea of faceless hands reaching for more consumer goods in Escape Diversity. Ruiz's work is as subtle as a baseball bat, but whispered messages go unheard in an age when no seems to be paying attention. Through March 2006. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848, www.heard.org. -- L.P.
"Super Heroics" by Mark Newport at Arizona State University Art Museum: Fiber artist and ASU professor Mark Newport pokes fun at traditional gender roles by using the feminine art of knitting to make manly superhero costumes. His empty Aquaman, Batman, Daredevil and Spiderman suits hang flaccidly from the museum walls, waiting for someone to fill them, but no one can, and that's the point. They're cable-knit versions of the unrealistic expectations our culture places on men, and they're nothing short of brilliant. Through Sept. 3. 10th St. and Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-965-2787. -- L.P.
"Surrealism U.S.A." at Phoenix Art Museum: This spirited exhibition that includes works by artists such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Joseph Cornell and Robert Motherwell is the first major survey of American surrealism in 25 years. Some of the works are as melodramatic as a 13-year-old's art project. But whether the art and the ideas behind it are good or bad isn't the point. One of Surrealism's basic tenets was that such snotty aesthetic distinctions didn't amount to a hill of melted watches. It's an idea that lives to this day in popular culture. Through Sept. 25. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222. -- L.P.
"Water, Water Everywhere" at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: There's not a stale idea in sight in this water-themed exhibition of work by artists from around the world. The show includes a video about the injustices of the cruise ship business, and another about sexism and jellyfish. But the piece that will haunt you is Brazilian Rivane Neuenschwander's video about transience and loss. Fish swim in an aquarium, each pulling a lone word on a banner. The fish -- inconsequential creatures bearing misunderstood messages -- are a suitable metaphor for existence in an age that can leave one feeling like bait. Through Sunday, Sept. 4. 7374 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale, 480-484-ARTS, www.smoca.org. -- L.P.
"Will Wilson: Auto Immune Response" at the Heard Museum: How do you survive in a postapocalyptic world? According to Will Wilson, the key to survival lies in an understanding of the past. The Navajo photographer explores this, as well as the concepts of Native American identity and connection to the land, through a series of powerful, in-your-face, mixed-media and photo-based installations. Wilson draws from his own past (the alienation felt as a child in exile at Phoenix Indian School) and that of his people to produce moving images that challenge established stereotypes of Native American art and the people who create it. Most poignant is a life-size steel hogan -- a refashioning of the traditional dwelling and its contents as a result of exposure to Anglo society and technology. "Auto Immune Response" is part of the museum's series "Artspeak: New Voices in Contemporary Art." Through September. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848. -- C.C.
"HOME: Native People in the Southwest" at the Heard Museum: The Heard ends a yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary by opening a huge new gallery that houses a larger and improved exhibition of Southwestern Native American art. The new exhibition organizes 2,000 objects by tribe instead of type, includes maps of each tribe's ancestral and modern lands, information about their history, and excerpts of interviews with living members of the tribe. The result is that "HOME" feels less like a showcase of treasures amassed on the cheap by rich white people and more like an explanation of the still-living cultures that produced them. Through 2020. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848. www.heard.org. -- L.P.
Dale Chihuly at Bentley Projects: Before Dale Chihuly became the godfather of art glass, he worked as a commercial fisherman to earn money for grad school. He brings this memory of the world beneath the waves to the glass works on exhibit at Phoenix's premier contemporary art gallery. Eight undulating pieces that look like they were plucked from a brilliantly colored coral reef seem to be lighted from within; the Confetti Seaform Set, a shell-shaped vessel full of biomorphic red, green and blue glass pieces, creates a gorgeous undersea world on a tabletop. On display indefinitely. 215 E. Grant St., Phoenix, 602-340-9200. -- L.P.
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