Showcase nudity or violence at an art exhibit and you'll pack a large gallery, but mention "contemporary art" and you're relegated to a tiny, one-room studio in the basement.
But contemporary art has climbed out of the aesthetic cellar in recent years, thanks in part to the PBS documentary series Art: 21 -- Artists in the Twenty-First Century, which focuses exclusively on contemporary visual art and artists in the United States. Bentley Projects' Art: 21 Preview Series begins on Friday, October 7, with the third season's first episode, Power. Narrated by comedian David Alan Grier, Power profiles painter Laylah Ali, mixed-media alchemist Cai Guo-Qiang, and film-projection artist Krzysztof Wodiczko.
"Art: 21 allows us to peer into the studios and lives of some of the greatest living artists working today," says Bentley Projects curator Jessica Eckert, adding that Season Three challenges the notion that each artist is only gifted in a particular medium. Matthew Ritchie, for example, is known for his excellent drawing skills, yet he is shown creating metal sculpture and designing card games.
Art: 21 -- Artists in the Twenty-First Century
Bentley Projects, 215 East Grant Street
The preview series premires with an opening gala at 7 p.m. Friday, October 7. Additional episodes screen at 1 p.m. October 15, 22 and 29. Admission is free. Call 602-340-9200.
While other galleries around the globe are also previewing the new season's four shows, Bentley Projects will be the first to follow the screening series with a related visual exhibit, "Art: 21 -- The Artists," which opens in December.
Eckert says she hopes the preview series (and upcoming exhibit) will encourage the Valley's emerging arts community to get more involved with contemporary art. "We expect a large number of artists and collectors to attend, but we're really focused on attracting students and the community," she says. "We want people to leave here excited and talking about art." -- By Wynter Holden
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The Art: 21 -- Artists in the Twenty-First Century