March 1, 2013
Joe and Jan Show Opens in Phoenix Tonight

Image: Vince Larue

(At this event, Vince Larue will have copies of Dark Heat for sale.)

In March, curator Robrt Pela will present The Joe and Jan Show, a group exhibition of artwork from 11 different artists, all of it in homage to Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer. The exhibit will be open on First Friday, as well as during Art Detour weekend (March 2 and 3) and again on Third Friday in March.

Much of the work, which includes both portraits of these infamous public servants as well as pieces inspired by their more notorious antics, was commissioned by Pela. Among the artists who’ve created new work for the exhibit are Jeff Falk, Annie Lopez, Peter Bugg, and Cuban painter Chary Castro-Marin. French comic artist Vince LaRue has created six color-drenched drawings, inspired by American rock concert posters of the 1960s. Irma Sanchez has produced a welcome mat with Sheriff Joe’s face on it that everyone will step on as they come through the door. Other work is more neutral, like a flattering textile portrait of Brewer knitted by Phoenix artist Todd Daniel Grossman. Also participating in the show are artists Chris Swanberg, Paul Wilson, Eric Cox, and Melissa McGurgan.

The Joe and Jan Show will open on First Friday, March 1 at 6 p.m. with an artist reception, and will remain on exhibit through March 29 at 335 West McDowell Road. The gallery is otherwise open by appointment only, by calling 602-320-8445.

January 29, 2013
Kristin Shears, Owner of Willo North Gallery, Cancels Joe and Jan Show Four Days Before Opening

Image: Vince Larueimage

This Friday, Willo North Gallery in Phoenix was to open its latest show curated by Robrt Pela, featuring new work by Vince Larue (who traveled from France for the opening), Peter Bugg, Jeff Falk, Annie Lopez and others.

This morning, galley owner Kristin Shears informed Pela that the show was canceled.

Pela had just informed Shears that he intended to resign from his role as curator after this show.

"Needless to say, I’m horrified," Pela told the artists. "Most of you spent weeks of your time creating new work especially for this show, and one of you is traveling here from France to deliver your artwork and be at the exhibit. Four days before our opening is no time for a gallery owner to cancel a show, but the fact that she has done so is beyond my control."

Pela intends to hold the show at another venue next month, and has already had offers from other galleries.

I don’t know if this canceling was meant to hurt Robrt Pela personally, or if Kristin Shears got cold feet over a potentially controversial show (its subject was Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer), so I just sent Shears the following email:

Dear Ms. Shears,

I’m working on an article about the cancelation of the Joe and Jan show. Why was it canceled? Was it because of the content of the show, or personal retaliation against Robrt Pela for resigning?  How do you feel about the effect on the artists, one of whom traveled from France for the show?

Barry Graham

I’ll post her response if there is one. I’ll be writing more about this in any case.

January 3, 2013

Not So New American City

This video shows how the downtown Phoenix art scene was in the 1990s. I’m amazed at how many of these events I remember, and moved to see so many old friends, some of whom have since died.


October 8, 2012
Phoenix First Friday Art Roundup: Powerful Work by Carolyn Lavender and Jeff Falk, and Chaos Theory Did Not Censor Suzanne Falk

In the good company of Daishin Stephenson and Vince Larue, I headed downtown for First Friday. We started at Willo North, where Daishin has four photos hanging in the boutique. It always hosts the most essential shows in town, thanks to the brilliant eyes and mind of its curator, Robrt Pela. 

The new show is of work by Carolyn Lavender and Christy Puetz. I had never heard of either of them before, but I was captivated by Puetz’s animal sculptures; their beads and sequins create a startling beauty and, despite their materials, avoid cuteness.

If Puetz manages to avoid cuteness, Lavender never goes anywhere near it. Her graphite drawings are unsettling and haunting, with a compelling loveliness that is at once dreamlike and vague, and yet starkly specific. A 33-panel installation depicts the artist with various animal heads on top of her own. In the gallery, I kept returning to it, and I’ve been thinking about it for the last two days. At the time, I remarked that she draws like a steampunk Edward Gorey.

We left Willo North and headed to Legend City Studios for the 13th annual Chaos Theory exhibition, which this year showed the work of more than 60 artists. There was terrible music - I wondered if the band (whom I haven’t the heart to name) was playing a bunch of excruciating emo songs, or just the same song over and over again. I actually heard its frontman play a song at a funeral recently, a song so bad that, even in such a sombre setting, I found it hard not to burst out laughing.

Fortunately, the art on display at Chaos Theory didn’t match the quality of the music. It ranged from good to great. There was outstanding work by James Angel, Abbey Messmer, Randy Slack and Eric Cox, but easily my favorite was Jeff Falk’s Good Work!. Falk has been this city’s most brilliant and challenging artist for the last two decades, and he’s currently doing some of his best work ever. (He had some shown at Willo North last month.)

Another Falk, unrelated to Jeff, was absent from Chaos Theory this year. Suzanne Falk, in response to a critic’s praise of her technical skill but mockery of her conservatism, had done a painting of some men stroking one another’s cocks. Randy Slack, who oversees Chaos Theory, declined to show the painting on the grounds that the event is all-ages and the painting is unsuitable for children, and so there have been accusations of censorship. Whatever anyone’s opinion of Suzanne Falk’s work might be, such accusations miss the point. It would only be censorship if Slack were preventing her from showing her painting somewhere else.

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