Best Cardboard Art 2010 | Cartel Coffee Lab | People & Places | Phoenix
We like our baristas snarky. Occasionally, though, baristas are too busy filling coffee orders to lay on the snark. That's why the cardboard signs at Cartel are so subtly brilliant. "Get off your phone or we'll release the raptors," one sign displays in black and red Sharpie with tiny teeth in the "o" of "raptors." Another sign urges you to "bitch all you want, but cappuccinos are for here." We can't take our cappuccinos to go? Normally we'd be furious with an insatiable anger, but your cutesy sign of cardboard affixed to your back wall makes us want to smile instead. Bless your cardboard snark, Cartel.
Phoenix-based artist Spencer Hibert makes all kinds of art. He paints and sculpts; his latest creature is called Goo Goo Ghandi, and it looks like sort of a cross between the Incredible Hulk and a super-drippy, see-through candle. Cool. But our favorite Hibert creation is the Miigii, an opaque little plastic guy that comes with a set of stickers with which to customize him. Hibert makes 'em big, but he also made 'em super-small — small enough to fit in a vending machine. Make that thousands of vending machines around the world. You can buy a set of mini Miigiis on Hibert's website, but it's more fun to see if you can spot them in a vending machine at the grocery store. Happy hunting!
Lots of great art came out of the movement against Senate Bill 1070, and among our favorites is a set of postcards produced by local artist Irma Sanchez. They are simple and accessible, priced at about $5 — and you can send them to friends and family! (Though we're keeping our set to ourselves.)The cards come in packages of three; each scene has a photo captioned, "Viviendo a Arizona," "Trabajando en Arizona" or "La Vida en Arizona" ("coming to Arizona," "working in Arizona, and "living in Arizona"). Respectively, they depict a Latina woman walking across the desert, cleaning the floor, and wearing black-and-white jail stripes. That pretty much says it all.
When she died in June at 89, the French-born, American-based Louise Bourgeois left behind a link between the art of the 21st century and belle epoque Paris' cubism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism. She also left Phoenicians with an enormous example of her best work at our downtown Convention Center. Art Is a Guaranty of Sanity is a 90-foot-tall sculpture of a vanity mirror that rises out of the atrium there. Stamped with its own title (the phrase on which Bourgeois based her life and career, she always claimed), the piece is a coy commentary on vanity in art and fashion as well as a gorgeous gift to our city, of which Bourgeois was reportedly very fond.
Bokeh didn't waste any time messing around when it opened in January. First, the gallery, located inside of the monOrchid building, displayed soft-focused, black-and-white awesomeness by John Wagner. The next exhibition featured Bob Carey's large-scale self-portraits of the artist posing in a pink tutu. Wayne Rainey, an accomplished shutterbug himself, opened this photography-only spot to showcase heavy-hitting artists such as Carey, who's a pretty big-deal commercial photographer in NYC. When you're not drooling over the photographic eye candy, you can stroll through monOrchid Gallery itself on First and Third Fridays to check out multiple high-quality exhibits in the beautiful Roosevelt Street space.

Best Gallery to See Artists Both Famous and Amateur Hanging Side by Side

The Trunk Space

A recent First Friday visit to this teeny Grand Avenue gallery/music space made for an exciting and rather shocking surprise: There, among the mail-art and tempura portraits by amateurs, were two giant pieces by renowned local artist Janet DeBerge Lange. Part of a series of metal quilts she's working on, each panel is made from tin boxes, old signage, and enamel-plated containers arranged in bright, whimsical designs. The pair displayed at The Trunk Space looked from a distance as though Grandma had sewn them, but up close, they revealed layers of peeling paint and shiny, hard surfaces. We were wowed to find Lange's stuff on display at a space known for giving newbies a chance to shine, and it made us like this groovy gallery all the more.
The city spends a bunch of money on a huge piece of public art. What happens next? The masses hate it and complain like crazy about the waste of funds on the hideous eyesore. Before you know it, the image is smeared on bumper stickers, stamps, and T-shirts. Ta-da! It has become a defining symbol of the city. Though this is how the life of public art usually plays out, we really don't have time for all that tomfoolery when it comes to the Seventh Avenue Streetscape Panels. The collaborative piece currently features art by Suzanne Falk, Colton Brock, and Catie Raya, with poetry by Catherine Hammond, Ryan Holden, and Kathleen Winter. The images and text share double-sided, translucent, illuminated panels. This installation stays up until spring 2011, after which the city will replace it with work by a new crop of local artists. So push the fast-forward button and rush through the hate-turning-to-love part; you have only a little while to enjoy this.
Last November, local promoter Charlie Levy hired Tucson artist Joe Pagac to paint murals advertising upcoming music and culture events on the west wall of eye lounge in downtown Phoenix. Ever since then, we've been making excuses to drive by the gallery. On First Fridays, you'll find Pagac on his ladder painting over last month's mural and creating a new masterpiece. His works aren't always gorgeous, but they're a hell of a lot better-looking than the bland stucco walls and amateur punk-ass tagging that you find elsewhere in Phoenix's urban core. In an ad for RJD2's show at The Rhythm Room, an adorable cartoon Nosferatu was depicted building a sandcastle with the help of his pet bats. The shading was gorgeous and the muted midnight blue and purple tones striking. Pagac's other funky murals have featured indie movie posters and caricatures of the band Sonic Youth. We look forward to seeing Pagac paint a new piece on the building each month, even though they're technically as commercial as a giant McDonald's billboard.
Agree or disagree, it was time for Modified Arts to change. The building's exterior needed some serious TLC, the stage was one amplified band short of collapse, and the sewage smell seeping from the bathroom needed to be kicked to the curb. So when longtime owner Kimber Lanning handed the keys to Adam Murray and Kim Larkin, it was an artsy godsend, mostly because the husband-and-wife team really went to town on the space. In mid-December 2009, with the help of a handful of volunteers, they tore out the stage and green room and hauled mountains of yucky grime to the trash. Then, the two gave the space a new coat of paint, laid down beautiful wood floors, and slapped up a new sign outside. The result: a space that is way gorgeous, and that's not even counting the amazing artwork displayed on the walls during monthly exhibits.
Aptly billed as the world's first global history museum, the MIM is a rare example of something or someone's living up to its hype and then exceeding expectations. The beautifully open and inviting space opened in April with a collection that includes instruments from literally every nation on the globe — no small feat. That makes for quite a day at this privately funded gem in the desert. We were entranced by the myriad sounds pulsating through our wireless headsets as we spent time with the 300-plus exhibits, and we learned so much more than we had expected. We got a special charge out of the klezmer exhibit (covering music dedicated to preserving the Jewish heritage), and we tripped out on handcrafted instruments from such exotic locales as Nepal, Ghana, and Mali. And, for you foodies, the eats at the MIM are terrific, with global cuisine and local/regional dishes available for a fair price. This museum is a must-visit.

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