Reviews of current exhibits, shows and installations
Tawni Shuler and Alex Kutchins at Shemer Art Center and Museum: If youve ever reminisced with an old friend or family member, youre likely familiar with the pitfalls of memory: Some moments are bold and clear while others have weakened to become translucent shadows. Tawni Shuler works with pastels and acrylic to create dark abstractions of dreamlike landscapes, tackling her frequent journeys through an inevitably spotty and incomplete memory bank we all struggle with. The result is a melancholic, aimless wandering through a transient landscape. Vaguely familiar forms are present for only a second and then fade quickly into the abyss. In contrast, Alex Kutchins ceramic pieces offer a total change of pace. The teapots are segmented into stacked geometric forms that could pass as the cattywampus architecture seen in Dr. Seuss books. With their zany proportions, his works could easily reek of tackiness. But Kutchins saves himself by sticking to a muted color scheme of periwinkle, mauve, and ivory with a matte (almost powdery) finish. The incongruity of the show is easily forgiven thanks to Shulers odd allure and Kutchins screwball charm. Admission is free. Through September 6 at 5005 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix. Open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Tuesdays til 9 p.m.), Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call 602-262-4727 or visit www.phoenix.gov/shemer.
"Conversations" at Art Connections Caf at the Tempe Library: What better place to display paper-based artwork than a library? Local artist Katherine Nicholson used her handmade paper to collect bits of nature by soaking it in the Salt River. But she didnt stop there for these outdoors-inspired works. She also used clay as a host to embed other natural treasures found in the desert and copper etching plates to record animal tracks. The works are pretty and ethereal and make a recording of the nature that she so obviously loves. Her work, thrown against Jeff Falks clean-cut and intellectual aesthetic, makes an interesting visual mix. Falk is showing new collage pieces, done in his neatly trimmed style, using text, book pages, and paint. Theyre childlike and nostalgic, with his illustrations from 1950s-style childrens books overlapped with stencil work. Both artists obviously chose work that is easy for the public to digest, typical of what you would expect to see at a library. Admission is free. It runs through September 19 at the library, 3500 S. Rural Rd. Call 480-350-5500 or visit www.tempe.gov/arts/events/cafe.
"Industrial Tribalism: The Art of Dave Kowalski" at the West Valley Art Museum: If you have a habit of Dumpster-diving for undiscovered goodies, you may run into artist Dave Kowalski, who hustles trash heaps for his art supplies. With his multimedia sculpture and Native American aesthetic, Kowalski successfully incorporates odd throwaway objects like scrap iron, bits of glass, and the occasional car jack. It may sound like ugly junk, but the result is fetching, as he uses hair, animal skins, cut glass, feathers, and neon. Kowalski obviously has a sense of humor, as seen in the title Cactus Wren From Hell, a piece in which he embraces a gnarly knot in a branch carving it into a snarling bird that acts as the base of a lamp, complete with wrought-iron lampshade. Overall, the show is beautifully executed. Definitely trashy, but in a good way. Admission is $7. It runs through September 16 at the museum, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts (114th Avenue and Bell Road) in Surprise. Call 623-972-0456 or visit www.wvam.org.
"Automotivated" at the Phoenix Art Museum, Fashion Design Gallery: If the cars in PAMs Curves of Steel show were enough to get you revved up, check out the fashion gallery for more aerodynamic designs. The dresses on display are sleek, shimmering silks and satins from the 1930s fabrics that cling to a smooth, streamlined shape. The automotive influence is most obvious in Jeanne Lanvins 1931 Wedding Dress, which is constructed with visible geometric panels of fabric, much like the welded plates of a cars body. Whoever wore this dress down the aisle was cutting carbs and hitting the gym (or its 1931 equivalent) because she had to be svelte to pull this one off. The show definitely couldve skipped the scary underwear display that includes faded, old, elastic body suits. Theyre interesting from a technical perspective, but fat-sucker suits on mannequins? Eeew. Despite the minor panty problems, the show has plenty more beautiful gowns sure to get your motor running. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $4 for children, free to all on Tuesday evenings. Through September 2. 1625 N. Central Ave, Phoenix. Cal (602) 257-1222 or visit www.phxart.org.
"Draw Me a Picture" at the Heard Museum: Steven Yazzie the It Boy of the local art scene has a show at a major museum. Too bad its not a show of the work weve grown accustomed to from him, amazing paintings that showcase his true talent. Yazzie took a risk with Draw Me a Picture, so named because he drew pictures while driving a cart. The result? Um, dont drive and draw. Admission is $10; seniors $9; $5 for students with valid ID; children 6 to 12, $3; under 5 free. Through September 2. 2301 N. Central Ave. Call 602-252-8848 or visit www.heard.org.
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