Artist Randy Slack, best known around these parts for presenting the annual "Chaos Theory" exhibition at Legend City Studios in Phoenix, recalls childhood days spent "toodling around" with his dad, an elevator mechanic whose beat included the Luhrs Building originally developed by German immigrants.
Today it is part of the newly-restored Luhrs City Center in downtown Phoenix, between Central and First Avenues, and Jefferson and Madison Streets. It includes the Luhrs Building and Tower, a pair of high-rises built during the 1920s and connected by a two-story Luhrs Arcade. A 19-story Luhrs City Center Marriott and six-level parking structure are scheduled to open in 2016.
During the 1990s, when Slack was in his 20s and beginning his journey as a self-taught artist, he figured he'd need "a city studio in the center of town." Slack remembered time spent at the Luhrs Building and finagled his way into securing a small basement space he describes as "a 300-square-foot closet with no windows or nothing."
He'd just started an artist collective called 3CarPileUp with pals James Angel and David Dauncey. "When the suits were gone," he says, "we were up to no good." Short on cash, Slack painted murals in the basement in lieu of paying rent. One depicting Patriots Square Park found its way into a solo exhibition of Slack's work being presented as a "guerilla art takeover" on Friday, December 6. It's a one-night only affair running from 5 p.m. to midnight.
"Randy Slack Retrospective, From the Luhrs Basement + Beyond" will occupy two rooms inside the Luhrs Arcade portion of Luhrs City Center. Inside the smaller space, which Slack describes as "edgy" and "raw," he plans to show "everything from my basement days." Think works laden with drips and splatters, and canvases screwed together, while Slack was "trying to figure out paint." One painting features a man named Ed, the security guard they'd sign in with every night during the Luhrs Building days.
The other "nicer" room will hold newer works, and a portion of the exhibition will spill into another space. "I chose about 25 works that represent me," Slack explains. Most are from early or recent days, he says, although there's one 2004 piece Slack describes as "a bridge" between them. Slack's newest work, shown during this year's "Chaos Theory" exhibition, is included.
The retrospective also features an installation of furniture that once belonged to Slack's grandparents, who moved from Guam to Phoenix then furnished their new digs by replicating a Levitz living room during the days of avocado green, citrus orange, and harvest gold.
Slack had just bought his Seventh Avenue studio when his grandmother passed away, and his family let him keep the living room down to the record player. A similar installation, titled "Light Without Giving Off Light," was featured several years ago in the "New American City" exhibition at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe.
"It's the room we weren't allowed to go in as kids," Slack recalls. It'll return to Legend City Studios after the one-night-only retrospective at Luhrs City Center. Come Christmas Eve, he'll gather his family at the studio, where they put up his grandmother's aluminum tree and play Dean Martin records.
But there's plenty to be done before Slack gets another chance to simply sit on his vintage sofa. He's had just a few weeks to put the show together, which came right on the heels of "Chaos Theory," and he's already pulling pieces for a possible solo show in an L.A. area gallery during March of next year.
"Corporate asked me if I wanted to put art in the storefront to create buzz," Slack says of his invitation to exhibit works at center. "They want some good energy." He hesitated at first, but got excited after "playing around in the space." Slacks says he's drawn to the "raw, unfinished" vibe, and got good feedback after placing a few works in the space.
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Soon he was "bursting with nostalgia," calling collectors about loaning pieces for the show. "I've never had a solo show like this," he says. He'd hoped to pull Angel and Dauncey into it, but learned they'd both be traveling. "It is what it is," he says. "It's almost like a meant-to-be thing."
See "Randy Slack Retrospective, From The Luhrs Basement + Beyond" Friday, December 5, from 5 p.m. to midnight. Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour will be serving "gourmet bar bites." Luhrs City Center is located between Central and First Avenues, and Jefferson and Madison Streets. The Luhrs Arcade is located at 25 West Jefferson Street. Parking is available at an on-site garage facing First Avenue.