In Review: Favorite Art Exhibitions of 2011

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​As we bid farewell to the year and look ahead to 2012, Jackalope Ranch contributors will bring you some greatest hits from 2011. Today we're taking a look back at a few local art happenings that caused a stir in the scene ... 

10. "Seeing is Believing: Rebecca Campbell and Angela Ellsworth" at Phoenix Art Museum: 
 Mitt Romney has nothing on Campbell and Ellsworth when it comes to mining the mother lode of being raised Mormon, as these two women so artfully do. Finally, PAM is featuring local artists - took it long enough. This show's running until January 22, 2012, so there's still time to wander through the wonderland of Mormonism's personal stamp on Campbell and Ellsworth's creative psyches.

9. "Dulce: Bisque without Borders" centered on the work of Franco Mondini-Ruiz at ASU Art Museum's Ceramic Research Center: 

Mondini-Ruiz's antics and art made for one of the most memorable openings I've ever attended, during which the artist pitched his uber-kitschy, yet clever, artwork -- which deals with the cultural clash between El Norte and La Frontera -- like a seasoned hawker on Tijuana's Avenida Revolución. Check out my review and a slideshow of the delightful mayhem

8. "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other" at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: 
This Neuenschwander retrospective, organized by New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Irish Museum of Art, was chock full of the Brazilian conceptual artist's performative, video and installation work from the last ten years. For me, the exhibition had only one major flaw - there just wasn't enough work included. We need more thought-provoking conceptual art offerings like this one.  

7. Karolina Sussland at Modified Arts: 
Raising snarkiness to high art, Sussland's photographic miming of inane commercial stock photos made me snort out loud. Here's a recap of Sussland's show... 

Phoenix homeboy Jon Haddock gave us a two-fer exhibition earlier this year in a show that fearlessly dug into the shadowy psychological demi-monde of the comic book and its die-hard fans. In "Masters of Creative Reality," curated by the local artist, he selected work by comic book masters who deal with the slings and arrows of everyday existence; in "Us vs. Them," Haddock's own work sets up the dichotomy between the comic fan's often painfully isolated world and the fantasyland created in comic books. Leave it to Haddock to create that delicious frisson of discomfort in the often dark and foreboding art he disguises as cartoons.

5. "Chaos Theory 12" at Legend City Studios: 
This completely uncurated group show organized annually by Randy Slack for the past 12 years deserves mention here not only for pure longevity (though it has a long way to go before it beats out the annual Cowboy Art show at PAM, which, after decades, has magically disappeared), but also for the virulence of the comments left in response to my review of it. This is performance art at its finest, folks. 

4. "Modern Mexican Painting" at Phoenix Art Museum: 
A brave move on PAM's part to exhibit modernist Mexican painting produced between 1900 and 1960 without glorifying either Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco or David Alfaro Siqueiros. Que milagro. Read more here

3. "Rust Farms: Jerry Jacobson" at Mesa Arts Center: 
Who knew rusting objects could be so captivating? Jacobson breeds rust formation on metal objects in glass jars filled with corrosive salt water, which he then uses as pigment for drawings and paintings. It's a toss-up as to whether the dissolving objects themselves or the pigment paintings produced from the eroding metal are the stars of this show. 

2. "Declaring Independence" organized by Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art (phICA) for the Eric Fischl Gallery at Phoenix College: 
This is one exhibition I wish I could have reviewed. Curator Ted Decker cherry picked some very fine work produced by some of the Valley's best artists, together with other artists outside the state he's mentored, for this group show. For a glimpse at the show's contents, go here

1. "Securing a Free State: The Second Amendment Project by Jennifer Nelson" at ASU Art Museum: 
Ex-ballerina Nelson's intriguing Social Studies project avoided obvious issues that embroil the Constitution's 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. Instead, she concentrated on the amendment's "to secure a free state" clause. The results of her interactive, performative work were surprising and chilling.

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