Arizona Biennial…cool stuffby Charles Spillar on Jul. 24, 2009, under arts
The 2009 Arizona Biennial is up at the Tucson Museum of Art through September 26th. As usual this is a show not to be missed due to its eclectic mix of styles, subject matter and materials. I have been attending biennials for as long as I can remember, and in fact am represented in the show this time, the first time since 1995. As with any juried show, the viewer will agree and disagree with some selections, as well as some omissions given the depth and breadth of Arizona talent in the arts. The show presents an interesting mix of mediums with: 2 video works, 18 paintings, 10 photographs, 5 sculptures, 9 mixed media works, 1 installation and 3 prints. This, all from 44 artists who all are currently residing in Arizona.
Upon entering the gallery one is immeadiately drawn to the sole installation work in the show, Gwyneth Scally’s “Museum of Dying Giants”, which is composed of a fur-like tent stuffed with a scene of the great northwest complete with pine odors and mountain vista. Across the room from Gwyneth’s work is a pair of Angela Ellsworth sculptures entitled “Seer Bonnet III & IV” which are composed entirely of pins which display their heads looking like elegant beads, only to reveal the sharp pins underneath which would pierce anyone who would try to wear such a chapeau. What does this say about the dangers of vision?
Dominic Miller’s work on paper which appears at first to be a time-lapse photo of the heavens is in fact a pin-pricked, ink-covered geometric exercise which channels map-making, topography, astronomy and perhaps obsession – a curious companion to the Ellsworth piece just a few feet away. Further down the ramp at the museum the glowing red cub-like panel by Carrie Seid entitled “Full Scale” which sucks the viewer inside its translucent interior. Seid’s works beg to be touched, but don’t…please. Simon Donovan’s video work, “Lament of the mediocre regional mid-career artist” is a playful, self mocking monologue where the artist’s head is floating in a sky as the central sun/star element bemoaning his failure to make it big in the art world. Another sculptural work, Marco Rosichelli’s “Spring Fetus”, reminds us that art can be funny and stylish at the same time. Modeled after a playground kids toy, the giant spring is topped off with a fiberglass fetus shape straight out of a biology textbook – inviting the viewer to climb on board – but again please do not touch.
What does al of this mean? Guest curator Tim Rodgers, chief Curator of the New Mexico Museum Museum of art offers a brief intro at the shows start urging viewers to look at what they like and don’t like together to perhaps gain a better understanding of the range of work being created. Sometimes opposites make more sense in the context of each other. Thought provoking work is always better than the work that is numbingly bland. Be sure to check out this show to for your own opinion.