For those who frequent the bustling First and Third Friday arts scene in Phoenix, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world filled with intriguing art beyond the city’s boundaries. Without exploring works in other cities and towns, it's hard to get a sense of the big picture.
The East Valley has some pretty cool exhibitions lined up for this month. One featured artist creates ceramics inspired by water and whaling, and another uses visual tropes to call out American failings in providing equal rights for gays. Here’s the rundown, so you can check them out.
“Breach: Log 16”
ASU Ceramics Research Center and Brickyard Gallery
Through August 6
Look carefully at Courtney Michele Leonard’s art piece referencing a fishing net, and you’ll see that the small ceramic pieces dotting its intersecting lines are actually porcelain water spigots. Hailing from the Shinnecock Nation of Long Island, New York, New Mexico-based Leonard creates mixed media, video, and audio works exploring the evolution of language, image, and culture. Her “Breach: Log 16” exhibition considers the historical ties of water and whale, related laws, and issues of material sustainability. Find more information on the ASU Ceramics Research Center and Brickyard Gallery website.
April 23 to May 21
William LeGoullon, an artist best known for his series of photographs capturing items used for target practice then left behind in the desert, curates this exhibition including 78 works by 57 Arizona students from high school through graduate school. In doing so, he looked for images that broke his expectations and pushed the students’ level of competency. “The experiential outcome explores not only a wide range of aesthetics, but also experimentation with conceptual content, processes, and subject matter,” LeGoullon says in his juror statement for the show. For him, it’s all about “examining how students continue to challenge the ways we think about and develop the medium while simultaneously recognizing photography’s unique relationship to our culture as a whole.” Find more information on the Art Intersection website.
“Archive of Rag and Bone”
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum
April 29 to August 7
California artist Kristin Beeler addresses contrasting aesthetics of beauty that balance perfection and imperfection, using objects rendered in silver, mother of pearl, and charcoal. These works, from her latest series, include portraits and related objects that document very specific moments in time through memory. Pieces being shown include hand-embroidered Tyvek garments referencing protection and topography while serving as maps of the physical landscape. Upcoming offerings at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum include “El Mac: Aerosol Exalted” featuring works by international street artist El Mac (Miles “Mac” MacGregor) and “Journey and Memory: Past the Rock, the Sun’s Gates and the Land of Dreams” featuring works by Phoenix artists Christopher Jagmin and Patricia Sannit. A limited edition multi-color relief print by El Mac goes on sale during an opening reception for these exhibitions, which takes place on Friday, May 13. Find more information on the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum website.
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May 3 to 10
Two videos created by the Tehran-based artist collective 2Niks Pictures are being shown for the first time in the U.S. in May, at Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale. Created by sculptor and performance artist Masoud Nikdel and documentary filmmaker Ehsan Nikbakht, the videos address themes related to identify, and the tenuous relationship between humans and the world they take for granted. The collective performs on the streets of Tehran, and records the ways people react to, and interact with, their work. Tilt Gallery is also showing works by three American photographers who touch on identity in other contexts. Find more information on the Tilt Gallery Facebook page.
“Mel Roman: Coming Out Under Fire”
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
May 21 to October 2
As Americans who support gay rights celebrate the first anniversary of the Marriage Equality Act this summer, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art revisits the work of artist, civil rights activist, and clinical psychologist Mel Roman, whose work integrates text, found objects, and the American flag. His 50-year career blended what the museum calls “provocative visual art, explicit political critique and the scientific study of the human psyche.” In 2000, the museum presented Roman works – including 12 sculptures, installations, and photographs filled with visual tropes — confronting America’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gay members of the military. Now it’s presenting his work anew, even as some politicians continue to promote public policy rooted in bigotry. Upcoming offerings at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art also include “Permanent Collection: Impermanent Museum,” which reveals hidden remnants from the museum’s 17-year exhibition history. Find more information on the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art website.