Visual Arts

10 Cool Things We Saw in Downtown Phoenix During June's First Friday

Despite the rain, there was plenty of action in the downtown Phoenix arts scene during June's First Friday, as assorted visual and performance artists activated spaces from a local restaurant to a vacant gallery turned pop-up exhibit space. These are several of our favorite finds.

Sheriff satire

Most works we spotted at First Studio referenced nature and other tamer subjects, and while plenty were perfectly delightful, the one that really captured our imagination was Anthony Eslick’s Uncertainties in Free Living. Other artists featured in “Collective Minds: Creative Outcomes” exhibit include Penny Benjamin, Darren Brubaker, Kevin Caron, Kimberly Harris, Tracey Jenkins, and Frank Ybarra. The show continues through August 28.

Murals in miniature

After collaborating on several murals in Roosevelt Row, artists Tato Caraveo and JB Snyder took their painting prowess to the former Pravus gallery now used as a pop-up exhibition space. We loved seeing Snyder’s large scale work, including a geometric mural branching out from both sides of one corner space, but also Caraveo’s portraiture measuring about the size of the palm of a hand. We’re always keen on seeing artists play with different scale and settings for their work.

Fabulous faces

Walls inside the At Central Gallery at Burton Barr Central Library currently don works by Barbara Janson and Stu Braks featured in the exhibition titled “Spirits of the West,” which includes this simple but striking painting by Braks. He’s painted several faces for this show, including several done on the round tops of drums. Jansons pieces for the show include quilts depicting desert landscapes as well as mixed media works. The show continues through July 31.

Colorful bodies

When we popped into {9} The Gallery, we found not only Charles Love Sanders’ “Pathos” exhibition, but also a pair of models covered in brightly decorated skin with matching minimal attire covering parts that might cause offense for some gallery-goers. Both the man in blue and the woman in orange reflected the artist’s conviction that the human body is the world’s most beautiful art form.

Layered landscapes

It was refreshing to find just a small selection of Hallie Mueller’s large scale works exhibited in her “Simultaneous” show at Five15 Arts, given the way so many galleries are being packed nowadays like tiny drawers stuffed with mismatched socks. Just a little of her work, created to convey both conceptual and visual ambiguity, goes a long way. We were glad to see these pieces, and the gallery goers who popped in to see them, given plenty of physical and intellectual breathing room. The show continues through June 27.

Tiny throwbacks

A fun crop of Danny Neumann photographs arranged in neat rows on a single wall at MADE Art Boutique conjured nifty bits of nostalgia rooted in favorite childhood superheroes. Neumann’s “Go Figures!” series sets action figures in everyday settings, featuring playful depictions such as Thor bike-riding with his buddies as his hammer sits safely contained in a handlebar bike basket. Nearby we spotted upcycled works in wood, including several with a localist vibe, by Lora Barnhiser.

Mylar mash-ups

We found a double dose of good stuff at Eye Lounge, where Bobo Johns' pieces were strewn across both a large rectangular tabletop and a nifty patch of the floor. In the Project Room, we lingered over mash-ups of bond, vellum, and Mylar created by Heather Holyan for her “Paint and Prints” exhibition. It’s cool to see artists using less traditional materials, and mixing them in ways that heighten their visual interest. The show continues through June 15.

Twisted Americana

At Shade Gallery inside monOrchid, we enjoyed seeing works by both Scott Wolf and DadSocks, who use stencils to create works with social commentary that's sometimes subtle, but more often not. Our favorites included pieces by Wolf that blend iconic imagery reflecting various trappings of the American dream with a twisted sense of humor that conveys a more honest assessment of American impulses towards greed and sexuality. The show continues through June 25. 

Collective creativity

Several local artists working with diverse media including ceramics, spray paint, ink, and sterling silver shared works via displays around the inside perimeter of the cavernous exhibition space at Oasis on Grand, making for a cozy bit of art exploration during a night of rolling downpours. Our favorites included paintings by Arthur Owsley, whose vibe blends traditional iconography with pop imagery and street art stylings.

ARTELPHX reprise

Stopping by The Lodge Art Studio, we got a behind the scenes glimpse at two of our favorite installations from past ARTELPHX events, both created by Rafael Navarro and Holly Anderson. In one side of the gallery, they’ve hung several of the white paper fish they first suspended over a bed in the hotel room they transformed into an immersive art environment for last fall’s ARTELPHX. Across the intimate gallery space sits the meditative figure at the heart of their butterfly-infused installation for ARTELPHX held earlier this year. We loved seeing these pieces up close, and marveled once again at the rich visual tapestries these artists are capable of weaving with relatively basic materials and simple forms.

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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