Best Art Gallery 2014 | Lisa Sette Gallery | People & Places | Phoenix
Andrew Pielage

After 28 years on Scottsdale's Marshall Way, Lisa Sette Gallery has moved to midtown Phoenix. Its new home is a semi-subterranean building by late Midcentury Modern architect Al Beadle. Wrapped in white scrim, it's a beautiful, minimal space in white and gray that's a sleek backdrop to pieces showcased by Sette, the perennial tastemaker. Ultimately, that's what makes the gallery the best. For its opening show, Sette displayed works from an array of artists, including Mayme Kratz, Mark Klett, and Carrie Marill, the latter of whom provided a new body of work for the gallery's final Scottsdale show.

It's no secret that we're fans of Becky Nahom. The ASU grad and arts scene up-and-comer (who's worked or volunteered at nearly every major arts institution in town) won a 2014 Big Brain Award for her curatorial efforts. With her partner, Julia Bruck, Nahom launched Halt Gallery, a mobile curating project that allows the duo to bring works they love to new spaces. This year they've presented site-specific shows by Laura Spalding Best and Elysia Holland Michaelsen at Hot Box Gallery and Eye Lounge. But as they continue curating, the pair plans to diversify the spaces where they hold exhibitions. Best keep an eye out.

Contain yourself. The downtown Phoenix arts scene has a new pop-up gallery that's made from a repurposed ocean-certified shipping container — and it's a must-see. The Greg Esser-helmed arts project launched with help from Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, Roosevelt Row CDC, and grant funding from ArtPlace America. Since then, the small mobile arts space (it's just 20 feet long) has hosted works from Amelec Diaz, Maral Tabrizi, and Laura Spalding Best, who displayed pieces inside the gallery and gave its exterior a fresh coat of paint by way of a mural.

Not too long ago, Marshall Way in Old Town Scottsdale was the place to be on Thursday evenings, for art walks that predated downtown Phoenix's crazy First Fridays and actually offered art you might want to buy and hang on your walls — assuming you could afford it.

One by one, though, the big Scottsdale galleries have shut down, leaving Marshall Way a ghost town, save for one old favorite: Kraig Foote's Art One. Not only is much of the work in this gallery a deal at any price, it's priced to sell and created by students. This is not a student gallery as much as it is a gallery that sells professional-quality work that happens to be created by students — at affordable prices. Over the years, we've heard again and again from local artists who say they never could have broken into the business without Foote's support. He's got good taste and a big heart, and we hope Art One never goes away.

The warehouse district is on the up and up. And ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is getting in on the action. Along with five graduate studio programs from the School of Art, the school moved its Step Gallery from Tempe to a warehouse renovated by preservationist Michael Levine. The industrial space features exposed brick and bright orange-red beams, while the painted white centralized gallery space features exhibitions by the school's graduate students. Yes, it's a bit off the traditional First Friday path, but the art space is the perfect place to catch Arizona's up-and-comers.

To interestingly and engagingly fill the sprawling space of Roosevelt Row's MonOrchid is an impressive feat. The sizable gallery played host to our favorite exhibition during the 26th edition of Art Detour, an annual self-guided tour of galleries and artists' studios in Phoenix. Curated by Nicole Royse, "Apache X" was a retrospective of Douglas Miles' career in the arts and as founder of Apache Skateboards. The show presented aggressive, intense pieces that asserted Native American culture through a variety of media. Standouts included Beautiful Struggle, a mural of a man and woman staring at passersby, and paintings on luggage and oil cans. The striking visuals made for an unforgettable show.

There's no other way to say it: Sarah Hurwitz's Participation Prize made us smile. (Full disclosure: Hurwitz is a New Times contributor.) As part of the Valley-wide temporary public art initiative IN FLUX's fourth cycle, the piece was installed on Roosevelt and Fourth streets. The interactive sculpture is a purple awards platform for celebrating the little everyday things people accomplish — like taking out the trash, sorting out junk mail, or calling Grandma. A banner across the top of the piece reads "Today I . . ." above a chalkboard space where anyone can write in whatever activity they completed that deserves recognition. It's a playful chiding of participating ribbons that also celebrates the small wins. And it's so completely Sarah Hurwitz.

Light is acclaimed artist James Turrell's medium of choice. And it shines just right through his Scottsdale skyspace Knight Rise. Completed in 2001, the work is, to put it simply, a circular room with a bench lining the walls and a circular cutout in the ceiling, above a curved wall. Though that description hardly does the piece justice. The way light pours and changes color within the space is something that truly requires an in-person visit to comprehend. Open to the public and free of charge, Knight Rise is located in the Nancy and Art Schwalm Sculpture Garden at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Go see for yourself.

Now you see them, now you don't. The wheat paste works of graffiti artist and 2014 Big Brain finalist El Peezo are like the Houdinis of 'hood art. Adorning the walls of abandoned buildings and occupied structures, down secluded side streets and major public access roads, these colorful yet easily corroded composites of starch and water add a much appreciated vitality to downtown living. Whether it's Nightmare Before Christmas' Jack Skellington hanging out on the side of the Phoenix Public Market Cafe, the now removed Charlie Chaplin posing outside of Bentley Projects, or the creatures of Where the Wild Things Are creeping behind the scenes of the Palabra Collective (those are gone now, too), Phoenix locals love to pause and pay tribute to the anonymous artists' work with the always welcome Instagram post. Seriously, take a picture. It will last longer.

Arizona is rich in the traditions of poetry. Local poets who keep the art of verse alive include Alison Hawthorne Deming, Norman Dubie, and N. Scott Momaday, but none are so celebrated as Alberto Álvaro Ríos, our own State Poet Laureate. The author of ten books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir, Ríos writes beautifully of life and death and "this hour of ourselves," as he famously wrote in "Who Has Need, I Stand With You" in 2010. His books of poems include The Theater of Night, winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award, The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, finalist for the National Book Award, and Whispering to Fool the Wind, which won the Walt Whitman Award for poetry. His memoir, Capirotada, may be written in prose, but its stories of growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border sang with poetry and passion. Alberto Ríos does us proud.

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