Before every restaurant in creation jumped on the "local art" bandwagon, coffee houses were the place to go for cool art. You know, the kind of packed hangout with comfy mismatched chairs and moth-eaten sofas that every artist in town was clamoring to showcase their works in. Killer paintings and cool metal sculptures graced the walls, at prices a coffee house patron could afford.
Then, the owners and managers got busy helping customers, and not sourcing new artists. The shop's better contributors moved on to galleries and museums and -- gasp! -- restaurants. All that was left above those mismatched chairs were empty spaces, floral paintings and stick figures.
Oh, Xtreme Bean, on Southern Ave. just west of McClintock Rd. in Tempe, how we once flocked to your cool refurbished bank building to listen to jazz and look at the cool indie art on the walls. How we adored the quiet serenity of sipping iced mocha lattes in your vault amidst funky, modern paintings. Now, we get the snoozefest that is Peaceful Lake and Purple Lighthouse, which seriously make me wonder if artist Denise Phillips was a student of the late Bob Ross.
Well, at least they're landscapes, and not floral prints.
Ack! I spoke too soon. Enter Deborah Hamilton's collection of floral photographs. Kudos to the artist for employing multiple photographic techniques; which might've been interesting, if her subject matter hadn't been so deleriously dull that I needed a slice of cream-filled Italian cake to reinstate my energy level (which incidentally was sinfully mag, though I'm not sure it was made on site). As Arizonans, we've seen desert plants so many times that they're kind of passé. Perhaps her work would go over better in Chicago. Or... Alaska?
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As coffee goes, Xtreme Bean's pretty solid. They've got a nice dark roast, decent (albeit out-of-the-box) chai and some tasty pastries, from rare black-and-white cookies to extra sweet carrot cake with a frosting that's more towards buttercream than cream cheese. If only their art was as palatable.