Reviews of current exhibits, shows and installations
"LARGE" at Larsen Gallery: Maybe size really does matter, at least where fine art is concerned. Larsen has gathered an eclectic selection of wall-size paintings, many created during well-known artists' earlier years. Check out the late Native American artist Fritz Scholder's Shaman at the Beach, a roughly sketched figure with the same shape and complexity as ancient cave drawings. The thick purple and green layers vibrate against each other on the canvas, a precursor of his later works that use multiple layers of opposing colors. Fans of Ed Mell may be disappointed by his Untitled Pillar, created in 1978. While his cubist influence is evident in the sharp angles of his red rock butte, Mell's earlier skies lacked the vibrant hues and swirling brush strokes of his more recent landscapes. The impressive size of the piece tall enough to require display under a cathedral ceiling is its biggest selling point. Admission is free. Through Jan. 31. 3705 N. Bishop Ln., Scottsdale, 480-941-0900, www.larsengallery.com.
"Heavy Metal" at Tempe Public Library: Photographer and custom car builder Johnny Medina captures families that embody the lowrider community, leaving the cars themselves as background. In The Next Step, a teenager in dark shades proudly displays his bicycle; complete with chromed, twisted metal handlebars. Joan Waters proves welding metal isn't just a man's game. Her steel sculptures of abstracted landscapes undulate with an organic, earthy feel that's distinctly feminine. Don't miss Hold the Starch, a steel shirt with rusty "buttons" crafted from washers on which Waters used an olive-colored patina to create visible wrinkles. Admission is free. Through Feb. 7. 3500 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, 480-350-5500, www.tempe.gov/library/.
"Three Pulses" at Tilt Gallery: Mother Nature obviously exerted her influence on the three artists in this group exhibit. Painter Patricia Beatty repeats floral motifs, Christopher Colville photographs in the pristine wilderness and mixed-media artist Rafael Navarro displays a keen understanding of feminine archetypes in his transformation of the curves of a guitar into mother's womb. Look for his Forbidden Fruit, a three-dimensional assemblage of Satan and Cupid beneath a barbed-wire apple that speaks to Eve's quandary. Colville has an uncanny knack for turning ordinary places into surreal landscapes. In his Dreams series, the woods behind an Icelandic campsite are illuminated by a mysterious blue glow. It might leave you questioning whether we're really alone in the universe. Admission is free. Through Jan. 27. 919 W. Fillmore St., Phoenix, 602-716-5667, www.tiltgallery.com.
Dagne Hanson at West Valley Art Museum: It's difficult to reduce an artist's entire life down to a single room of works, but WVAM does an excellent job in illustrating local painter Dagne Hanson's personal and professional growth. Her efforts are traced from early charcoal nudes to more recent, emotionally charged works like her Suzie series, which depicts a wistful young woman with stringy red hair. Hanson's strength lies in her exceptional ability to capture the essence of a subject without depicting full detail. In Miserable Mother Series #2: None of Your Business, rapid brush strokes and opposing hues of crimson and green provide a striking visual representation of a woman's wrath. This is one mama you don't want to trifle with. Admission is $7, $2 for students. Through Feb. 11. 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts, Surprise, 623-972-0635, www.wvam.org.
"Big Works" at Herberger Theater Center: Critics of Chicago's newly installed Agora, a public art sculpture featuring 106 headless bronze figures, can attest to the fact that bigger doesn't necessarily equal better when it comes to art. Thankfully, physical size wasn't the sole requirement for inclusion in this eclectic exhibition. Joan Waters' welded steel shields are fluid and graceful, and Tia Tull's Politica III, a photo enlargement of a Hispanic woman draped in an American flag over a gas pump, packs a powerful post-election punch. In Rhonda Shakur Carter's The Tree House, a whimsical wooden tree is decorated with animated forest creatures studying a sturdy tree house containing kids of various ethnicities. The piece appears fit to be hung in a preschool, but take a closer look at the beautifully detailed children and you'll notice the stereotypical roles they're assigned. Admission is free. Through Jan. 1. 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix, 602-254-7399, www.herbergertheater.org.
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