Visual Arts

Art Scene

Susan Copeland at Burton Barr Central Library: Hey, America, wake up and smell the discrimination. That's the theme of Susan Copeland's exhibition "Refuse," a name that refers to the materials Copeland uses in her mixed-media creations and to treatment she believes African-Americans get in this country. The strongest pieces in the show are a series of plywood panels covered in cast plaster hands painted black and white that depict statistics about the U.S. prison population. A hand-woven remaking of the American flag is heavy-handed and obvious, but after last year's spectacle of black people dying in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, one can never yell about racism loudly enough. Admission is free. Through Jan. 30. 1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-256-3521.

Rudy Turk at Mesa Contemporary Arts: One of the perks of being an artist is that you usually amass a fabulous art collection, compensation for all those years of living in an unheated studio and subsisting on beans and ramen noodles. Valley art pioneer Rudy Turk owns just such an eclectic, amazing collection, and it's on display along with his own expressionistic paintings. The work, by the likes of Whistler, Delacroix and Fritz Scholder, is presented randomly, without dates or explanation, so the show feels more like a visit to Turk's home than a museum exhibition. Admission is $3.50, free on Thursdays and second Sundays of the month. Through Feb. 5. 1 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-644-6500,

Anthony Caro at Bentley Projects: British sculptor Anthony Caro is famous for the lean, linear metal abstractions he made in the 1960s, so the lumpy, earthbound assemblages of clay and steel in this exhibition are surprising. Caro's newest sculptures depict recognizable domestic objects like tables, chairs, a figure, and (gulp!) fruit. They're dark, huddled, and backward-looking, and maybe that's the point. If this work is any indication, old age will pluck you from the sky and replace your visions of the future with images from the past. Maybe this is why Roger Daltrey sang that he wanted to die before he got old. It's a hell of a fall. Admission is free. Through March 26. 215 E. Grant St., Phoenix, 602-340-9200,

"Keeping Shadows" at Phoenix Art Museum: This exhibition on the history of photography features more than 100 images ranging from 19th-century daguerreotypes to 21st-century photos from NASA space probes. There's work by big-deal photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Cecil Beaton, and Ansel Adams, but this is more than a greatest-hits compilation. "Shadows" explores our relationship with photography by showing how the medium and our perception of it have evolved during the past century and a half. Are photos infallible depictions of reality, or fabrications that cannot be trusted? Middlebrow hobby for the Kodak point-and-shoot set, or high art? "Shadows" shows photography is, or has been, all of these things. It's a smart show. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors. Through March 12. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222,

Jennifer Bartlett at Bentley Projects: If you want to see how a painter's brain differs from the gray matter of people who don't know which end of a paintbrush to hold, go see this retrospective of work by the famed California-born artist. In a piece titled Boats, Bartlett places a pair of hull fragments in front of their painted likenesses. The objects are bare as bones, but the painting of the objects is an explosion of lush brush strokes, hyper textures and swirling, breathing colors. You saw lifeless pieces of wood; she saw an impressionistic dream of color, dappled light and swirling wood grain. That's what makes her an artist and you an arts patron. Through Jan. 215 E. Grant St., Phoenix, 602-340-9200,

"Big City" at Phoenix Art Museum: There isn't a single image of the PHX among the cityscapes and urban life scenes drawn from PAM's permanent collection. That's odd, seeing as how we're the nation's fifth or sixth largest metropolis. The omission is partly because of the age of the work, the newest of which was made in the late 1970s when Phoenix was still a cow town on steroids. There are lots of classic Industrial Age images of skyscraper-chocked Eastern cities by masters like John Sloane and Reginald Marsh, but no Information Age images of upstart cities like Houston or Phoenix where all is horizontal. The portrait of the city is incomplete because it omits the last quarter-century, but Big City is still worth checking out. Admission is $9, $7 for students and seniors. Through May 7. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222,

Akio Takamori at ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center: Japanese-born Akio Takamori's envelope vases elevated ceramics from utile craft to expressive art in the early 1980s. The vessels' exteriors were human figures whose thoughts and passions were depicted on the vase's interior. This career retrospective shows 25 years of Takamori's work, from those vases to his recent figurative stoneware sculptures. One piece, Dance, shows a tall, 1950s-era G.I. dancing with a diminutive, kimono-clad Japanese woman. The towering soldier and the wary woman depict the uneasy history of relations between East and West in one brilliant, abbreviated stroke. Through Monday, Jan. 16. 10th St. and Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-965-2787,

"Hector Ruiz: La Realidad (Reality)" at the Heard Museum: Phoenix artist Hector Ruiz fires a shot between the eyes of American values with woodcarvings, block prints, and mixed-media assemblages that address racism, border issues and capitalism. A King Kong-size blonde crushes a hapless businessman in her manicured hands in Westernization, the papier-mâché installation that's the show's centerpiece, and the U.S. suburbs are depicted as a sea of faceless hands reaching for more consumer goods in Escape Diversity. Ruiz's work is as subtle as a baseball bat, but whispered messages go unheard in an age when no one seems to be paying attention. Through March. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848.

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Leanne Potts