Visual Arts

10 Best Things We've Seen in Metro Phoenix in 2016 — So Far

When Spencer Tunick poses 100 nude women in front of the Republican National Convention this summer, some Phoenicians will get to say they saw him first – during the opening reception for an exhibition of his works at ASU Art Museum. Halfway through 2016, it’s one of the best things we’ve seen on the local arts and culture landscape. But our favorites also include a collaboration featuring dance, sound, and visual arts, and a public art installation addressing urban incursions into wildlife habitats. Here’s a look back at our 10 favorites.

Rachel Bess and Charlotte Potter
Lisa Sette Gallery

Both artists explored issues of personal identity and digital personae in this exhibition, which ran from January 9 to February 27 at Lisa Sette Gallery. Bess set contemporary subjects in stylized vignettes referencing the vanitas paintings of old masters. Potter created delicate glass and metal works infused with images and texts culled from social-media posts – using cameos and lockets to explore the impact of digital media on various types of relationships. Each conveys the dark complexities of contemporary life and death using beautiful images rooted in earlier times.

Spencer Tunick and Stéphane Janssen
ASU Art Museum

Spencer Tunick, the New York-based artist who’ll be photographing 100 nude women outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 17, was in the Valley earlier this year, visiting Scottsdale art collector Stéphane Janssen and showing museum-goers around an ASU Art Museum gallery during the January 14 opening reception for “Participant: Photographs by Spencer Tunick from the Stéphane Janssen Collection.” Those who attended got Tunick’s backstory on several works featured in the exhibition, and saw several photographs for which Janssen posed alone or with others. The exhibition closed in late May, and Tunick is now looking for women to pose in Cleveland (here are the details in case you want to go for it).

Breaking Ground

This year’s Breaking Ground dance and film festival, presented by CONDER/dance at Tempe Center for the Arts on January 29 and 30, reflected the prevalence of cross-sector collaborations in contemporary dance. And one piece, called Amalgamations, was particularly striking. The piece featured choreographer and dancer Fumihiro Kikuchi performing with Phoenix sound artist Tony Orb and visual artist Heather Couch. Through the manipulation of clay, formed ceramics, sound, and movement, the trio seamlessly drew the audience into a wholly unique environment that felt completely organic rather than contrived – something it’s hard to achieve when merging multiple artists and diverse disciplines.

Perry Allen's river's passing, 1
Canal Convergence

Phoenix artist Perry Allen, who spent more than five years capturing his explorations of natural and urban landscapes on video, ended up selecting just eight minutes from more than 200 hours of footage for a film called a river’s passing, 1. The work was featured at Scottsdale Public Art’s Canal Convergence 2016, held February 25 to 28 at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Allen hoped his footage, which was shown on three side-by-side screens, would draw people in and prompt them to think about their own relationship with local landscapes. But in reality it did something more, prompting viewers to actually interact with the piece, going behind the screens to create silhouettes that added a new dimension to the work.

Desert Rose (Nuevas Generaciones) by El Mac
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum 

After dabbling in small-scale murals, Mesa finally took the leap into larger works when Mesa Arts Center commissioned international mural artist El Mac to paint a two-story mural to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Mesa Arts Center. The artist was born Miles MacGregor in Los Angeles and grew up in Phoenix – where he’s been making mural art for many years. His Mesa mural, titled Desert Rose (Nuevas Generaciones), depicts a pregnant woman holding a long-stem rose and features line work by Mesa graffiti and tattoo artist Mando Rascon. His exhibition titled “El Mac: Aerosol Exalted” continues through August 7 at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble