Art

The Best Phoenix Art Exhibitions of 2017

Rebirth (detail) by Bryan David Griffith.
Rebirth (detail) by Bryan David Griffith. Bryan David Griffith/Photo by Lynn Trimble

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click to enlarge The Dance (La danza) by Patricia Sannit. - PATRICIA SANNIT/PHOTO BY LYNN TRIMBLE
The Dance (La danza) by Patricia Sannit.
Patricia Sannit/Photo by Lynn Trimble
”Rise Fall Rise"
Phoenix Art Museum
June 7 to September 17, 2017


Phoenix artist Patricia Sannit received last year’s Scult Award from Phoenix Art Museum’s Contemporary Forum support group. And this year the museum presented her solo exhibition titled “Rise Fall Rise,” which featured ceramic forms bearing unique artist-made marks referencing particular events. Several were mounted atop tripods in an open circle, calling to mind the endless cycle of creation and destruction that Sannit often channels in her work. The exhibition prompted reflection on the interconnection of diverse people and places — sometimes through objects whose materials, uses, and perceived values shift over time. Sannit's work invites consideration of not only the arc of human history, but also the very real ways that arc is being bent by disruptions in the fabric of American civic life.

click to enlarge Keila Alaver, Sem título (Untitled), 2000. Leather, photograph, and wood. Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo Collection, Loan from Eduardo Brandão and Jan Fjeld. - DING MUSA/COURTESY OF PHOENIX ART MUSEUM
Keila Alaver, Sem título (Untitled), 2000. Leather, photograph, and wood. Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo Collection, Loan from Eduardo Brandão and Jan Fjeld.
Ding Musa/Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum
"Past/Future/Present: Contemporary Brazilian Art from the Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo"
Phoenix Art Museum
September 1 to December 31, 2017


For "Past/Future/Present: Contemporary Brazilian Art from the Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo,” Phoenix Art Museum worked with the Museum of Modern Art, São Paolo, to spotlight 70 works by 59 artists. As the first large-scale exhibition in the U.S. to feature art from this South American museum, this show gave museum-goers the chance to take in diverse artwork created in recent decades by pioneering Brazilian artists working in multiple media. Featured works were organized around five themes that include reimagined landscape, shifting identities, and reinvention of the monochrome. Nearly all conveyed profound layers of meaning that demonstrate the power of art to inspire, adapt, and share significant ideas. Even as the exhibition revealed distinct points of view, it gave voice to the collective humanity that spans the globe.


click to enlarge Kahn + Selesnick, Swallowtail Man, 2017, archival inkjet print, 24 inch diameter, mounted to plexi. - COURTESY OF LISA SETTE GALLERY
Kahn + Selesnick, Swallowtail Man, 2017, archival inkjet print, 24 inch diameter, mounted to plexi.
Courtesy of Lisa Sette Gallery
“Future Arcana”
Lisa Sette Gallery
September 5 to October 28, 2017


Calling on traditions of itinerate performance and occult mythologies, New York artists Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick create fictional histories for the future as well as the past. For a recent exhibition at Lisa Sette Gallery, they showed paintings of carnival figures, round photo-collages of staged environments facing ecological rupture, artist-made tarot cards with a book of interpretations, and a sculptural figure called a mummer. Using costumes and props from earlier eras, the pair creates photos that address environmental degradation, thus encouraging viewers to consider the impact their actions could have on future worlds. For this exhibition, Sette paired the duo's work with oil painting portraits by Phoenix artist Rachel Bess, whose work conjures similar other-worldly qualities.

click to enlarge Sheila Pepe, Common Sense II, 2010. Crocheted baby and worsted weight yarns, rope, and community participation. Installation view, Hand + Made: The Performative - Impulse in Art & Craft, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Texas. - COURTESY OF PHOENIX ART MUSEUM
Sheila Pepe, Common Sense II, 2010. Crocheted baby and worsted weight yarns, rope, and community participation. Installation view, Hand + Made: The PerformativeImpulse in Art & Craft, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Texas.
Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum
“Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism”
Phoenix Art Museum
October 14, 2017 to January 28, 2018


This exhibition, which was organized by Phoenix Art Museum, is the first mid-career survey of work by Sheila Pepe, a Brooklyn artist whose work often incorporates large-scale, site-dependent installations, as well as sculptural objects and ephemera. The exhibition captures Pepe’s proficiency for playing with various conceptions of feminism and craft, as she elucidates both personal and cultural narratives. Sometimes Pepe's pieces reference work by artists and others, such as Judy Chicago, who have helped to shape the feminist traditions that inform her art practice. But she also creates work that's responsive to current events, and is adept at critiquing museum culture through her work. There's much to think about here, including the legacy of early feminists and the responsibilities of current ones.

click to enlarge Images from Alison Sweet's "Westering Women" exhibit. - ALISON SWEET
Images from Alison Sweet's "Westering Women" exhibit.
Alison Sweet
"Westering Women"
Step Gallery
October 12 to October 21, 2017

For her intermedia installation at Step Gallery, Alison Sweet addressed popular mythologies about the American West while combining her interests in history, feminism, and landscape. Using historical photographs from her great-grandfather’s failed homestead, sewing typically viewed as women’s work, patterns constructed from sifted flour, and an anti-western dual-channel video projection, Sweet explored the prevalence of partial histories devoid of women. Her work prompted viewers to consider the misguided romanticism that masks rampant colonization, in the wider context of questions about how and why history is written. Her feminist stance also inspired reflection on the ways women are currently portrayed in the media and other contexts.
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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