Reviews of current exhibits, shows and installations

Paintings by Xiao Shunzhi at Calvin Charles Gallery: After a few hours of viewing art, I sometimes feel as if Ive rubbed my eyeballs with sandpaper. The visual wear makes everything blurry, and the only thing that returns focus is seeing something truly excellent. Such was the case on a recent Saturday when I walked into Calvin Charles Gallery. Among the eclectic mix of fine art, the paintings by Xiao Shunzhi emerge as the works with massive star quality. In Vine Series 1: My Home Xiao creates a painting full of action. Black paint squiggles across the surface of the bright white rice paper. He works with varying line thickness to create a masterful visual pattern that pulls the eye into and out of the resulting illusions of depth. The tangles of line emote a frenzied action that is balanced by large areas of negative space. The paintings on display include abstract works as well as traditional Chinese landscapes depicting scenes of everyday rural life. Admission is free and art will rotate as sold. 4201 North Marshall Way in Scottsdale. Call 480-421-1818 or visit www.calvincharles.com.

"Dirty Birdy" by Carrie Marill at Modified Arts: The shows title may conjure images of scraggly pigeons scavenging the streets like winged vermin. But these birds arent dirty at all. In each of Marills small works, a single bird sits atop a rock or mound of some sort against a white background. The birds are rendered with meticulous brushwork that shows every feather in fine detail. Each mound is made from collaged colored paper, cut into rock-like shapes and layered. The works are succinct — showing Marills ability to exercise restraint. The bird pieces make a great show in and of themselves, but Marill went the extra mile to design a clever introduction to the show by painting the walls in the front gallery with shapes and colors borrowed from the collaged rocks. Among the shapes, she listed in black text the 550 birds of Arizona and wrote out their corresponding calls. Admission is free. Through October 14. 407 E. Roosevelt, Phoenix. Hours vary. 602-462-5516. www.modified.org.

Paintings by Scooter LaForge at Antoine Proulx Design Studio: As far as turnoffs go, self-absorbed pretension is right up there with stained teeth and halitosis. And sadly, our art scene is rampant with artists who take themselves too seriously. But Scooter LaForge is the equivalent to teeth bleach and a bottle of mouthwash, as evidenced by his zany and hilarious paintings. His humorously morbid approach to subject matter that ranges from popular Hollywood icons to everyday urban scenes reflects the ease with which he approaches art. His intentionally immature and splotchy painting style works because the silly visual quality is part of the joke. But this isnt a simple gag; the subject matter — which is often depressing in its own right — is expertly turned into fodder for a hearty, inappropriate laugh. Admission is free and art will be rotated as sold at 3320 N. 44th St. in Phoenix. Call 602-952-1580 or visit www.antoineproulx.com.

"On the Ball" at Sky Harbor Airport Terminal 4, Level 3 Gallery: With millions of travelers cruising through Sky Harbor every year, the art displays surely need to approach crowd-pleasing topics. And whats more crowd-pleasing than American sports? After all, they cause spectators to passionately scream their brains out on a regular basis. Most of this show is what one would expect — paintings and sculpture of people doing sporty things. There are two artists who really outshine the rest. Keith Stanton has a pretty rad photography trick in which he sets up a scene in miniature and shoots with a macro lens to create the illusion of true-to-life scale. The photos are convincing at first glance, but because of their bright colors and miniature-model quality, they have a surrealistic edge. The other artist worth your time is Denise Currier, who basically paints with fabric. Its safe to assume that this woman has made some kickass quilts in her time, as evidenced by the stellar construction of pieced fabrics combined with gorgeous decorative stitching. She creates beautiful plush scenes of golf course landscapes. Jeff Falks small gold statue of a child with a baseball mitt and cap was just too over the top. Its an obvious attempt to update the cherub statues seen in cathedrals but Falks piece looks like a creepy doll, spray-painted by a sadistic kid. Admission is free. The show runs through March 30 at 3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Call 602-273-2105 or visit phoenix.gov/skyharborairport.

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Lilia Menconi
Contact: Lilia Menconi