The metro Phoenix art world is always busy, always producing new and exciting work. Here are some of the best pieces we saw over the past 12 months.
And for all of the 2020 winners, visit the Best of Phoenix page.
Best Permanent Public ArtInfinite Wave by Jeff Zischke
More than 200 laser-cut steel shapes form a sculptural shade structure called Infinite Wave installed near the entrance of the Chandler Museum. Created by Scottsdale artist Jeff Zischke, the public artwork throws a shadow of repeating patterns onto the ground below during the day, the uniform shapes suggesting various natural forms such as leaves, waves, and cactus. At night, the piece transforms into a canvas of color with LED lights in pink, purple, blue, green, and other vibrant colors. Ultimately, the piece is about the intersection of technological and natural environments at the heart of contemporary desert life — a topic we find ourselves thinking about more and more with each passing year, and that we're grateful to Zischke for illuminating so beautifully.
Best Temporary Public ArtRise by Laura Spalding Best
The landscape in downtown Phoenix is dotted with murals by Laura Spalding Best, an artist whose work often brings surreal, mirage-like imagery to utility poles and other ubiquitous objects in the urban desert. This year, Best added a new twist to her oeuvre with Rise, a field mural in Tempe which was created using more than 200 decommissioned traffic signs. The artist painted each sign using colors inspired by the way the sky shifts throughout the day, then installed them on the north bank of Tempe Town Lake, where plants grew up around them to reinforce the interplay of natural and manufactured environments. The piece gave passersby a chance to have an accidental encounter with art, creating a sense of wonder that's sometimes lost when seeking out art in more traditional settings.
Best Interactive Art528 hz by Laura E. Korch
People flocked to Laura E. Korch's interactive sculpture during her MFA thesis exhibition at ASU's Step Gallery, intrigued by the way the piece, shaped like an oversized oblong vessel, cradled the human form. After Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art added the work to its collection, it reappeared as part of an exhibit focused on women artists and gender disparities in the art world. People who laid face down within this Baltic birch plywood piece could put their arms into a pair of tunnels, an act that triggered vibrational frequencies and sound reminiscent of the human heartbeat. Art spaces are filled with "interactive" artworks that merely entertain those who encounter them, but Korch's sculpture is a truly transformative piece that's powerful enough to change the way people think about themselves, their community, technology, and, of course, art.
Best Art CollaborationArtlink's Art d'Core Exhibition
Thirteen members of the Artlink artist council chose partners for a collaborative exhibit installed in a large space at Park Central Mall in March. The opening took place amid early COVID-19 concerns, so Artlink filmed the exhibit and posted it online so more people could see the impressive results of these creative collaborations. The exhibit featured intriguing pairings, including visual artist bacpac working with fashion designer Tricee Thomas, and choreographer Liliana Gomez working with multimedia artist Sam Heard. Joan Baron and Gloria Martinez created a performative installation inspired in part by civil rights icon John Lewis. Titled Good Trouble Bucket, the piece explored immigration, environmental justice, and other issues at the heart of today's political conversation. Best of all, the exhibit inspired ongoing collaborations between several participating artists, creating new opportunities for community members to experience exciting new works.
Best Alley ArtOak and 14th Streets
You could spend days taking in the full measure of the local mural scene, but if you want to see works by some of Phoenix's best-loved artists in a single setting, make your way to the Coronado neighborhood. That's where you'll find this alley flanked by walls transformed into cinder-block canvases painted by dozens of artists over the course of several years, sometimes during free festivals that draw community members of all ages for art, music, food, and conversation. The miniature masterpieces reveal the diverse interests of the artists — including bicycles, pop music, animals, and more. Take a camera along so you can snap selfies with your favorites, and go back periodically to see what's new, because these little bits of painted bliss change periodically and it's one of the best outdoor art galleries around.
Best Community Art Project"The Violet Protest"
For years, Phoenix artist Ann Morton has found inspiration in politics; a notable series called Proofreading features handmade white handkerchiefs embroidered with some of Donald Trump's most outrageous quotes. For "The Violet Protest," Morton called on the citizens of 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to help her create a "a friendly protest" that would be sent to every member of the 117th U.S. Congress. Participants used textile techniques — quilting, felting, etc. — to make 8-by-8-inch squares with red and blue fabric. They were adorned with messages emphasizing values that are sadly lacking in American politics today: civility, compassion, creativity. The squares' first stop is an exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum scheduled to open in March 2021. Then, they'll be split up and sent to Congress, in the hopes they might inspire our leaders to prioritize people over party. Idealistic, maybe. But if nothing else, Morton's project produced some thought-provoking art.
Best MuralCultivating Unity by Jeff Slim and Edgar Fernandez
A strip of McDowell Road called Miracle Mile became significantly brighter following the addition of a new mural that blended the talents of established artist Jeff Slim and emerging artist Edgar Fernandez. The two men drew inspiration from the diversity of the neighborhoods surrounding the mural in creating their 14-foot high and 60-foot long piece, anchored by a figure holding soil that symbolizes the region's Indigenous roots. Elaborate line work flanking the central images draws on symbolism used in O'odham pottery, and includes the word "Unity" written in several languages used by people living in the community. The mural, which is on the side of the Lionetti Hair Clipper Service building, is distinguished by its mix of narrative and abstract elements and the ways it mirrors the cultural richness of its setting. Although the artists have very different styles, they're beautifully blended to create this work celebrating life, culture, and creativity.
Best FaceliftTrumpocalypse Billboard
Just as Donald Trump looms large over American life, so has a billboard with Trump's face towered over Grand Avenue, embellished with swastika-like dollar signs and nuclear mushroom clouds. That image is still up on Grand, but today it's covered by a red, white, and blue design with a voting theme. Karen Fiorito updated the other side of the billboard as well, covering a unity-themed design with a piece that addresses the issue of police brutality toward Black people. Beatrice Moore, who commissioned the artwork, plans to uncover Trump's face once again — hopefully in celebration of Trump losing his reelection bid. Until then, the makeover is a reminder that there are real issues and lives at stake in this upcoming election — and that voting is the best way to give the government its own makeover.
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