RAW Phoenix's CURRENT at Monarch Theatre: Refreshing, Despite Underwhelming Visual Art

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Photo by Zaida Dedolph; Styled by Sophia Idowu
Sophia Idowu's hair and makeup show featured goddess-like golden accents and shimmering natural makeup.

RAW:Natural Born Artists is an international organization that aims to unite local fashion designers, musicians, and artists of all ilks. Their most recent Phoenix showcase, entitled CURRENT (yes, all caps) made its way to the Monarch Theatre on November 19. We were there to check it out.

There was something refreshing about CURRENT. RAW was established to help creatives with less than 10 years of experience succeed by providing exposure, community, and support. Some of the works featured were clearly by amateurs; others demonstrated a higher level of sophistication. While there were certainly some ubiquitous visual art exhibitions (can we just get over photographing desert landscapes and vintage signs? Please?), there were plenty of others that were visually striking, intellectually compelling, or simply beautiful.

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Richard T. Walker Disrupts the Notion of the Sublime at ASU Art Museum in Tempe

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Mikey Estes
Richard T. Walker embodies and disrupts the Romantic archetype of man contemplating the landscape.

Upon entering Richard T. Walker's exhibition "the predicament of always (as we are)" at ASU Art Museum, the viewer is immersed in sound. Sound sculptures utilizing neon, keyboards, guitars, and rocks surround the space, and a two-channel video, from which the exhibition gets its name, is projected on the back wall. The artist, wearing a red t-shirt and dark jeans, is sitting in the White Sands National Monument in solitude, his back to us as he contemplates the scene and records himself talking on a cassette tape.

At times, the recording is muffled by wind and it becomes obvious that Walker's speech is not rehearsed. What he's saying is honest, personal, and raw. It's almost as if this tape was meant to be sent to someone close to the artist. While he is recording his thoughts, it's hard to not become immersed in your own. The viewer begins to embody this everyman role and becomes a part of the landscape. Even though the artist is alone during his journey through the desert, it's as if we are a part of it, too.


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40Owls Pop-up Gallery in Phoenix Presents Fortoul Brothers' Polished Primitivism

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Lynn Trimble
Opening reception for "Fortoul Brothers: Solo Exhibition" in Phoenix.
Before seeing the solo Fortoul Brothers exhibition inside a pop-up gallery in Phoenix, we never wondered what a cosmic stew of Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, and Steve Jobs might look like. But now we think we know, thanks to Friday, November 14's opening reception for a seamless mix of art with commerce best described as "polished primitivism."

It's the work of artist Isaac Fortoul and his older brother Gabriel, who wears both manager and curator hats. They describe themselves as "two Columbian brothers born and raised in the outskirts of New York City." Think Union City, New Jersey. For a time they lived in Phoenix, but it's been seven years since they exhibited works here.

In the interim, they've shown work in and beyond NYC, and established a "nomadic gallery" that takes art and merchandise on the road. They dubbed it 40Owls, playing with the phonetic pronunciation of their last name. By removing the space between the digit and the letter "O" that follows, they've mirrored the infinity symbol that's a common thread woven within much of their work.


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"Materialize" Exhibit at Shemer Art Center Explores Art, 3D Technology Intersection

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Lynn Trimble
Stacking Bull by David Van Ness, a work made with silica filled resin, is part of "Materialize" at Shemer Art Center in Phoenix.
Man versus machine. To many, it's a theoretical battle best enjoyed via books or big screen. For artists, it cuts to the very nature of their craft. How do the tools artists use shape their ideas, process, and finished product?

It's an intriguing question posed with full force in the "Materialize: 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping" exhibition at Shemer Art Center in Phoenix, which includes diverse works created using a variety of 3D technologies.


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"Vanitas" Exhibition Explores Love and Death at Phoenix Art Museum

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum
Joel-Peter Witkin Teatro di Morte (Threatre of Death), 1989 gelatin silver print-toned Overall: 20 x 16 in (50.8 x 40.6 cm) Collection Stéphane Janssen
We're fortunate in metro Phoenix to feel the rich influence of Latin arts and culture not only during Dia de los Muertos celebrations, but year-round as well. Local artists including Lalo Cota infuse their work with skulls and other familiar symbols for death.

In a world divided by geography and ideology, our only commonality is the certainty of death. It's a shared human experience reflected in artworks dubbed "vanitas," a Latin term translated as "vanity." The genre has special appeal for Belgian art collector Stéphane Janssen, who lives in Arizona.

His gifts to the Phoenix Art Museum and ASU Art Museum, which are substantial, include Viola Frey's glazed ceramic "Nude Man" sculpture. It sits near the stairwell you'll descend to explore Phoenix Art Museum's new exhibition titled "Vanitas: Contemporary Reflections on Love & Death from the Collection of Stéphane Janssen."


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Slick Concept Trumps Content in "Covert Operations" at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Categories: Review, Visual Art

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Photo by Chris Loomis
Jenny Holzer, Ribs, 2010 (SMoCA Installation view). Eleven LED signs with blue, red and white diodes, text: U.S. government documents, 58 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches each. Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York. © 2010 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In the years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, visual and performing artists have explored the delicate dance between privacy and protection. Some hunt for undisclosed information. Others highlight things revealed but never appropriated by our cultural consciousness.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art contributes to the ongoing dialogue with "Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns," an exhibition of works by 13 international visual artists and collaboratives.

"Covert Operations," which is curated by SMoCA's Claire C. Carter, consumes all four of the museum's galleries through the fall season. It includes 37 works that tackle classified military sites, nuclear weapons, narcotics and human trafficking, and illegal extradition flights. The exhibition is billed as "the first major survey of a generation of artists working in the violent and uncertain decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to collect and reveal previously unreported information."


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Ballet Arizona's Swan Lake Is a Visual Feast

Categories: Dance, Review

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Alexander Iziliaev
Brian Leonard (Prince Siegfried) and Jillian Barrell (Odette/Odile) perform in Swan Lake with Ballet Arizona.
When the curtain opens on Ballet Arizona's Swan Lake, the audience is transported to a world reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales. Layers of elaborate trees, looking like a cross between delicate ink drawings and woodcuts used to illustrate storybooks long ago, line each side of the stage.

Scenic design by David Walker, courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater, is one of several elements making this Swan Lake a visual feast. The production features two acts, each with two scenes. For each one, the curtain rises on a new setting: garden palace, forest, ballroom and lakeside.

So too are costumes -- including the Von Rothbart costume designed by Leonor Texidor and Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen. It's all about the expansive wings -- fluid but strong and rich with deep shades of blue and green.

Von Rothbart is the bad guy in Swan Lake, a classic tale of good and evil that reminds us love can't always have a happy ending. The good guy is Prince Siegfried, who heads into the woods on his 21st birthday, eager to try the crossbow gifted by this mother.

Soon sorcery meets soap opera.


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The Bad and The Beautiful Fuses Contemporary and Modern Dance at Herberger Theater

Categories: Dance, Review

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Tim Fuller
Center Dance Ensemble performs Night of Moonlit Wild at Herberger Dance Center in Phoenix.
We're used to seeing dancing vampires this time of year, thanks to A Vampire Tale choreographed by Lisa Starry for her Scorpius Dance Theatre. Now Valley audiences can also enjoy the première of a new Starry work titled Fade, which is part of The Bad and The Beautiful program for Center Dance Ensemble (CDE) of Phoenix.

Center Dance Ensemble opened its 2014-15 season Thursday, October 23, with a five-piece program that includes four world première dances, including Fade, in addition to the ballet Billy the Kid choreographed by CDE artistic director Frances Smith Cohen.


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The Hungry Woman at ASU's Lyceum Theatre Is Interesting, Lacks Subtlety

Categories: Review, Theater

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Tim Trumble, courtesy of ASU Herberger Institute for Design and Arts
The Hungry Woman at ASU will continue October 23 through 26.

Cherrie Moraga's The Hungry Woman debuted on the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts' mainstage last weekend. The play, set in a post-Revolutionary, futuristic Phoenix, is a modernized retelling of the tragedy of Medea. Native and Mexican themes and folklore are integrated into the story, which also explores issues of homophobia and gender inequality. While the play presented an interesting perspective and was certainly thought-provoking, many elements of this particular production failed to reinforce the text.


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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: Misery Meets Company Meets Absurd Comedy at Phoenix's Herberger Theater

Categories: Review, Theater

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Joan Marcus
Charles Janasz and Ali Rose Dachis in Arizona Theatre Company's production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Two women are weeping. A man dressed as a Disney dwarf arrives with a tea tray. References to Chekhov are made. It's plain: We are watching a Christopher Durang play.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play. It is, in many ways, archetypal Durang: an absurdist comedy dense with literary and theater-world references, a happy story about deeply unhappy people.

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