Visual Arts

13 Cool Things We Saw During First Friday in Downtown Phoenix on December 4

December's First Friday featured more exhibitions than anyone could possibly experience in a single outing.

It's a good problem to have, but it's frustrating for those who want to really linger over the artwork or spend time in conversation rather than racing between destinations. Even with Third Fridays, which provide another opportunity to explore diverse offerings, it's getting tough to see everything. Imagining a time when metro Phoenix could support weekly Phoenix Fridays doesn't seem so far-fetched, especially given the prevalence of visual and performing art options and the number of new developments destined to increase the downtown population in coming years. Regardless, here are some of our favorite finds this time around.

Sculpture galore
The new Unexpected Art Gallery on the outskirts of the Grand Avenue Arts District looked a bit like a sculpture amusement park (in a good way) as artists from the ASU Sculpture Club showed their facility for working with wood, metal, neon, and a host of other media. Laura Amphlett used steel and aircraft cable to create A Puppet Called Chair, a hanging chair with a marionette feel. Alex Foster created a pair of side-by-side wooden ladders, one with several missing parts, called Reconstructed Deconstruction. And Lucy Erb showed her wooden work To the Hearth and Back, complete with screaming face.

No consensus
We spotted works by 15 artists working in diverse media in an exhibition at First Studio titled “No Consensus,” including this acrylic-and-gesso on canvas painting by Stan Kurth. And we got another chance to see recent modifications made to the First Studio Wallace & Ladmo mural by San Francisco artist Shawn Bullen and local artist Hugo Medina.

Art aglow
Nearly every nook and cranny of the Garfield neighborhood’s Alwun House was imbued with light-infused works of art, from drawings to sculptures by emerging to established artists, featured in the annual “Lighthouse” exhibition – which was curated by Landy Headley and included several takes on aging by artist Valerie Hunt. We spotted several artists and dancers hanging out as Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra delivered some serious rhythms underneath a light-bathed canopy with a psychedelic feel.

Vignettes of everyday life
Through groups of photographs with collective titles including “Navajo nation images” and “Black people,” and 8-foot by 8-foot wheat paste on birch panels, Chip Thomas (aka Jetsonorama) captured both the pain and promise of everyday existence for those marginalized by mainstream American culture. Those who’ve seen his work at Chartreuse can head up Grand Avenue just a couple of blocks to see a collaborative mural he helped to create earlier this year at La Melgosa for the Colibri Center for Human Rights in Tucson.

Art meets dance
The swarm of artists and gallery-goers who descended on {9} The Gallery for their “Tiny Works/Tiny Dances” exhibition presented with ArtelShow moved to the periphery of the space each time dancers took to 4-foot by 4-foot stages placed in the center of the main gallery space. Dancers including Nicole Olson and Lilana Gomez performed short, original works presented by CONDER/dance — which first presented “Tiny Dances” as part of its Breaking Ground dance and film festival. We loved seeing artists, dancers, and gallery-goers mingling, and hope its something we’ll see more of as the metro Phoenix art scene moves forward.

Street art style
Jesse Perry, an artist who has done mural work for diverse metro Phoenix spaces including Paz Cantina and FilmBar, brings a whole different scale to his exhibition at Practical Art, which show his street art sensibilities and playful sense of humor on a much smaller scale.

Off the grid
Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art presented another trio of compelling exhibitions in the shipping container galleries located in Roosevelt Row as part of its “Onloaded 3” series – including an exhibition by Brazilian artist Tulio Pinto, who shared his explorations in and around Phoenix via map markings, photographs, found rocks, and other materials.

Memories of Phoenix spaces lost to development married the decaying memory inherent in Alzheimer’s disease during the single night “Place Out of Time” exhibition at the Icehouse — which included a massive wood and metal seesaw by Jayme Blue and sculptures by Constance McBride. McBride’s busts, and works featuring lone or layered faces or torsos, were completely transformed by being set inside the raw, cavernous space and placed against the backdrop of tall compartmentalized panels dotted with glowing candles.

Chill factor
Some artists got literal, while others went conceptual, for an exhibition called “Icelandia” at Lotus Contemporary Art – which made for a nice change from the usual onslaught of heat-related exhibitions gallery-goers endure most summers around these parts. Still, the exhibition made us wonder: Where’s an ice artist bearing a nifty block of ice and carving tool when you really need one?

Scratched surfaces
Playing with both earth tones and nearly-neon colors, Samuel Dahl created several new works of painting, drawing, and intaglio prints using irregular shapes and techniques that prompt reflection on what lies beneath once people scratch deeper into the surface of their everyday lives. His current exhibition at Five15 Gallery, which features primarily landscapes and still life, includes several pieces made with charcoal and pyrographic mark on wood panel.

Crowded isolation
Modified Arts showed works by Jonathan Howard that convey the reality of isolation as something experienced not only in solitude, but also in the company of others. His figures, often appearing emotionally imprisoned by their technology, conjure reflection on the joint impulse to both pull others close and push them away.

Nods to nature
We spotted several works inspired by nature at Warehouse 1005 (located between The Nash and The Firehouse) where many artists were both showing and selling pieces in various media from fused glass to acrylic painting. We especially loved the many paintings with loose, flowing line work, including Kevin Frison’s Moment in Motion.

Dangerous waters
Our favorites at The Lodge Art Studio included several works by Rafael Navarro with a music-related twist, but also a small-scale work by Abbey Messmer putting a surreal spin on children's time spent poolside — which is best appreciated by those familiar with her larger-scale paintings that place women in perilous existential circumstances within the context of deep water. 
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble