"Chaos Theory 14" Hits Its Prime, Remains Plagued by Predictability and Mediocrity

Categories: Visual Art

Kathleen Vanesian
James Angel's Time Dilation has extended shelf life.
Who could have imagined that "Chaos Theory," a three-day, ragtag invitational art exhibition uncurated by artist Randy Slack of Legend City Studios, would hit its teenage prime and actually force local artists to hone their skills for public review?

Fourteen years ago, "Chaos Theory" borrowed its name, quite aptly, from the principle formulated by American mathematician Edward Lorenz that small differences in beginning conditions of a dynamical system will end up creating such different outcomes that long-term predictions about the system are basically impossible. For us math-phobic laymen, that means even a minor change in something's beginning can affect its ultimate outcome.

"Chaos Theory" ends up being the perfect moniker for this show, which started as a funky, ragingly uneven DIY show back in the day and has morphed into a highly anticipated annual event that will actually continue this year past its original one-weekend-only boundaries.

Check out a slideshow from First Friday.

Not that "Chaos Theory 14" is the perfect exhibition, by any means, though participating artists seem to be taking their submissions more seriously than ever before. Unfortunately, the Legend City exhibition this year is still plagued with enough predictability and mediocrity, not to mention passing topicality, to keep it from reaching any aesthetic apex.

See also: Chaos Theory 13: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh

The most disappointing facet of this year's show is the photography on display, which has none of the punch of last year's offerings. Brandon Sullivan's unremarkable Fuzzy with a Bite, a 3-foot-by-4-foot black-and-white print of jumping cholla backlit in a desert setting, would be more appropriate to some commercial gallery on Scottsdale's Main Street catering to Midwestern tourists. [Un]intended Targets by William Legoullon, a grid of rusty, disintegrating containers that used to contain flammable material, fails to be anything more than what it portrays. Jehu gives us yet another dollop of the Ten Dollar Project with Kyle Russ, a large black-and-white photograph of a disheveled man with a beard and matted hair, evoking none of the pathos of his anguished portrait of an African man from last year's show. David Michael Cook's color print of a weathered border patrol camera is less than inspiring, as is Brent Bond's Rising Son, a multi-paneled archival inkjet homage to his young son.

Maybe I've just seen too many SoCal-infused photographic images of lone surfers lugging short boards on isolated beaches and freeway construction scenarios -- not to mention experiencing the banal reality of both -- to be bowled over or even mildly engaged by Jon Balinkie's Beach Toys (yes, I saw the abandoned toddy on the beach, not that it makes any difference to this stereotypical shot) or Jesse Rieser's A Portrait of Los Angeles: Carmageddon, a stock shot of Interstate 405 under construction between Los Angeles, Mulholland Drive, and the San Fernando Valley.

See Also: Closer Look: "Chaos Theory 14" at Legend City Studios

God only knows what Wayne Rainey was thinking showing a staged shot of Little Red Riding Hood and an alleged wolf with garbage cans peeking through its forested backdrop. The piece was made even worse by a long, didactic explanation of the historical background of the fairy tale and its psycho-sexual significance. And Steve Yazzie dealt himself a cruel blow by displaying a snoozy digital still of a mountain taken from his multi-channel video installation, The Mountain, now showing at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe. Check out Yazzie's installation documentation, then dare to disagree with me.

Location Info


Legend City Studios

521 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

I am no art expert, I am just a gal with some art in her house, but I can say that some of the artists involved in this (Randy Slack, James Angel) created my favorite piece of art ever that is hanging in my house!

Hotrodron Carlsten
Hotrodron Carlsten

Dear Ms. Kathleen Vanesian. Please stop coming to any art event in the Phoenix or the state of AZ. After reading your review of Chaos Theory, I feel you have no idea what was there or what these fine artist that we have in this city do. You missed the meaning behind all of the pieces and never took the time see what was going on behind the pieces. Let me try and help you a little on the ones you wrote about in your horrible review. Wayne Rainey piece was not photo shopped, not printed from a computer or doctored in any way as far as I know. Wayne took great time and effort to develop the print from film by hand in a dark room and I assume by exposing the print in different lights and exposure time he was able to darken certain areas and lighten others, thus producing a saturated velvet type picture that had some fooled thinking it was a velvet painting. Steven J. Yazzie print was from his installation in Sante Fe as you said. Steve did not do a disservice to himself at all. Steve is trying to show that a Native American artist can do so much more than a kokopelli painting for Scottsdale tourist in old town. You never even mention Brian Boner piece that was just full of so much meaning and depth. Brian has a way of putting so much depth in the faces of the subjects that he includes in his paintings and the execution is on par with what you might see in New York at the MET. Another piece that you failed to mention was a piece that was done by Gennaro Garcia. The Gennaro piece was so detailed you had to literately get your nose about 7 inches away to see all the detail that was in his piece. It was hand drawn with ink pen and had so many stories happening at the same time that reflected the culture in Phoenix that it was mind numbing to try and take it all in and made you think how maybe this piece was trying to tell the story of how Phoenix came to be. Your article also calls on all the artist to tread lightly on political and socially topics. How much more do you need than Dennis Roddman being a US wanna be ambassador to South Korea viewed as odd couple. In closing Randy Slack did a outstanding job once again and we should be grateful to him to open his space and his time to put on one of the best art shows in the state and dare I say the whole country.


Will we ever get a different art critic to review this show... same reviewer for the same show at least three years in a row. I know I am ready for a fresh perspective.


@dlee23 In my opinion, the power of Vanesian's criticism is in the fact that she knows the Phoenix art scene so well. She's able to put it all in perspective -- we don't have enough of that in this city. That said, please let us know what you thought of the show! 


Perhaps, but this review was fairly predictable for anyone having read Ms. Vanesian's previous reviews. I did find it humorous that Ms.Vanesian's review of the Chaos Theory show was as predictable as she found the show. If I can get over my distaste for how Suzanne Falk's art was turned away last year, I may check the show out, surely not due to this review but out of curiosity to see the artists whose work I do admire that is in this show.

Now Trending

Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Vault


Health & Beauty