Thermal.Gallery June 2016 – BenJamz “Stencilism: In the cut”

TG Goens web

On view in our 100% virtual gallery through the month of June is Phoenix artist Benjamin Goens solo exhibition “Stencilism: In the cut.” BenJam studied Art History and Art Education at university but has always had a fascination with hip-hop culture, graffiti, and the evolution of street art.  Over the last two years he has dedicated himself to learning to cut intricate stencils to create the most realistic depictions of his subjects, often taken from Art History. He sometimes uses up to 12 or more stencils in one image to create lifelike tonal gradations in his imagery.  He challenges himself to reconstruct and share the beauty of the past in a modern way to communicate to the broader public.

Visit Thermal.Gallery today on any device connected to the internet!

To view the show simply click on the gallery image above and take a tour!

Art Detour!

We have been lucky and nailed down a space for this coming weekend’s Art Detour in downtown Phoenix!  We will be installing the current virtual exhibition ALL AZ in the space at 335 W McDowell Rd, just blocks west of the Phoenix Art Museum.

We will have a reception this coming Friday evening, March 18th, from 6-9pm and then we will be open Saturday March 19th and Sunday March 20th from 11am – 5pm.

Come down and see artwork by 10 of Arizona’s most promising contemporary artists and get a personal demonstration of our virtual exhibition platform!

Here is the event for RSVP:

https://www.facebook.com/events/931072390340861/

The Red State of the Arts

There is a long, and volatile, history between the arts and government in the U.S. The debate has raged for many years about the benefit of government subsidy to the arts. We all have seen the drastic changes to education based on the importance of art in public schools reaching record lows in recent years. For proponents, the arts are viewed as an economic stimulus while the opposition sees funding for the arts as a detractor from other important areas needing government funding.

Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the arts as a crucial aspect of building the economy after the Great Depression. He established the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935 as Part of the New Deal to give creative individuals more employment opportunities. Over the eight years the agency was in place (it was dissolved in 1943 because unemployment dropped exponentially in the wake of World War II) in employed millions of Americans. The art program, Federal Project No.1, employed over 40,000 artists in the first year alone, while setting up 100 art centers serving over 8 million people. Some of the well-known artists involved were Philip Guston, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.

In 1965, the federal government created the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as an independent agency to support and fund arts projects and organizations through a network of state agencies and organizations. The funding appropriations started in 1966 at about $3 million and rose to $175 million by the early 1990s. The ring-wing has regularly attempted to abolish the agency because of its support of controversial artists and claims that it is unimportant, wasteful, and elitist. During the Republican Revolution of 1994 Newt Gingrich led the attack to eliminate the NEA, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Public Broadcasting System. The attempt was unsuccessful but did result in major funding reductions ($65 million cut in 1996) and eliminated grants to individual artists. More recently the funding appropriations have been stable around $150 million per year.

Here in Arizona, we are now in the wake of multiple crises relating to government and the arts spearheaded by right –wing conservative and capitalist agendas. Most recently, newly elected Governor Doug Ducey (Rep) signed the state budget for fiscal year 2016 that cut the $1 million allocation that began in 2014 to the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The cuts came in light of a revelatory document produced by the Arizona Citizens for the Arts. The 2015 Arts Congress speaking points show the impact of the allocation over the past two years and what an increase in the allocation would provide the state economy. The claim is that the additional funding, derived from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, was not available due to budget balancing amidst a significant revenue shortfall.

View the AZ Citizens for the Arts 2015 Arts Congress talking points HERE

In 2014 and 2015 the additional funding was applied to all agency grant programs, including those for the individual artist and art businesses. According to the Arizona Commission on the Arts Director, Robert Booker, the cut may reduce the organizational funding to a 30-year low. Therefore, in order to protect priority public programs, there will be reductions in all areas of administration. Many of the initiatives meant for individual artists will be eliminated, and there will be less opportunity and more competition for the programs that remain. One might wonder if the elimination of these programs is strategic, instigating uproar from the individuals most affected. Mr. Booker does provide some optimism, though, stating that the agency is ambitiously working to map out a bold path for the arts in Arizona. We can only hope that there will be a heavy focus on fundraising activities and entrepreneurship programs for artists.

Read Mr. Booker’s statement yourself HERE

Shortly after the news of the budget cuts came the 2015 Governor’s Arts Awards, which recognize achievements in the state art community. In Governor Ducey’s introductory speech, he gave praise to the arts, a sector that generates $500 million in economic revenue plus millions in state taxes and employs 50,000 Arizonans. He made statements about how the arts are a “critical part of building our future” and that art “enriches communities” and “contributes to the economic health” of the state. Instead of use funding for the arts as an economic catalyst that could help balance and even improve the budget he supported drastically reducing the support for the sector. As one could imagine, the speech and his claims were met with respectful, but unenthusiastic applause as people thought about the contradiction between his words and his actions. But what did we expect from a man who has an insignificant political background and built a reputation as an ethically questionable businessman? That is red state politics at its best folks.

Downtown Phoenix businesses have been at war with the city government in the last few years due to capital support for gentrification and wrong-fit infill projects in the arts districts, such as age and income restricted housing along Roosevelt Street (wouldn’t all the noise complaint calls be exciting on a First Friday?). Gentrification is nothing new to arts districts. It is a typical cycle in large cities. Dilapidated areas invite artists because of the low-cost for living and studio spaces, which then brings other creative businesses and galleries to the area. An arts district is formed and becomes the place to be, which inspires developers to cash in on the neighborhood’s popularity with the young and hip. Before you know it, you have nothing left but luxury condos and retail chains, and the artists have all but disappeared.

But, in Phoenix this could signify the end of the local arts community. The focus on Roosevelt seems to be on high-end live/work spaces, which will not only push out the artists, but also many other low-income residents. The authenticity of the neighborhood is also in danger, with many significant buildings being razed to make room for contemporary high rises. Business owners have voiced their concerns for a few years now, and the Roosevelt Row organization seems to go back and forth over which side to support to create a stable neighborhood. The outlook is intriguing, it is an area that can use some upgrades and there are certain types of infill that will work well in the district. The main issue is that the city and the developers have no concern with those who are already there or what types of projects will work best in the area. We hope to see some adaptive re-use projects that incorporate the need for affordable housing and studio space for artists as well as low-rent commercial spaces for the galleries that focus on early-career local artists. There is plenty of room for that along with spaces to invite high-end galleries as well as money-makers who can afford to buy luxury condos and buy local art to fill them. It should be a diverse community that supports itself. The fear is that it will take the look of Mill Ave in Tempe and push out the culture that we experienced around ASU in the early 2000s.

At this point, gentrification may be inevitable on Roosevelt, it has sprung up just in the last 5 or 6 years without any foresight to confront the looming capitalist invasion. We must note, development is not bad, but there will be more compromise from the local businesses in order to create the inclusive neighborhood it should be. So, we hope to see those who can fight the good fight, but in the end the businesses have to focus on building their sustainability. On the other side of downtown, Grand Ave. took steps to protect its authenticity long ago. Key merchants, like Beatrice Moore, made sure to work to zone the neighborhood in light of potential influx so that affordable live/work spaces will hopefully remain in the surrounding area. Because of the efforts of Moore and the Grand Ave. Merchants Association we won’t be seeing any high rises in this walkable district and as it continues to grow and gain recognition it can definitely flourish. The next step is to attract more artists and galleries while marketing the businesses to a broad audience. Maybe displaced businesses will move from Roosevelt to Grand, and that will become the next hotspot, with protection of course.

Local Representation in Art Institutions – Why Not?

Many local artists and galleries have voiced concerns about a lack of support for the Phoenix art community by the local arts institutions.  There is a sense of a proverbial “they” when it comes to Phoenix Art Museum, SMOCA, ASU Art Museum, etc. as a conglomerate entity ignorant of the local scene and preferential to blockbuster international exhibitions and artists championed by Board members and the elite decision makers at these institutions.  Some concerns are metaphorical conspiracies suggesting a plot to dissolve the contemporary artists of the valley and implant a new regime, as if they wish to introduce an intrusive species into the desert to gorge on resources hidden from locals.  We propose that what exists is a lack of critical thinking and understanding of the position that institutions populate within the community, along with a total disregard for the purpose of a museum.

A museum is an institution that collects and/or displays objects of historical value and makes them available for public viewing on a permanent or temporary basis. Most museums are also places for academic research and education. Today, the museum has evolved into a place for social interaction, social justice, and community engagement.  A priority is also placed on spreading creative innovation, as Holland Cotter states, “Their job as public institutions is to change our habits of thinking and seeing.”  Therefore, they are spaces meant to expand creative and critical thinking about the ideas and objects in our world.

Most importantly, museums typically serve the general public by bringing ideas and objects to them not seen on a regular basis where they live.  Let’s look deeper at this through the mission statements of the three largest institutions in the Phoenix area:

Phoenix Art Museum: Our Mission is simple – Phoenix Art Museum is a vibrant destination connecting people to great art from around the world to enrich their lives and communities.

SMoCA: The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art champions creativity, innovation and the vitality of the visual arts. We seek to build and to educate audiences for modern and contemporary art, as well as to provide opportunities for the artistic community— locally, nationally and internationally. SMoCA provides a memorable experience of art, architecture and design by exploring new curatorial approaches and by highlighting cultural context. We interpret, exhibit, collect and preserve works in these media.

ASU Art Museum: The ASU Art Museum’s mission is to be a meeting point for the exchange of new ideas, perspectives and experiences among artists, students and the public through our exhibitions, residencies, collections and programs. The Museum forges meaningful connections across all areas of research in order to create a better, more sustainable future.

We could continue to explore the mission’s of other local institutions and there are a few common themes—engaging the public, educating visitors, and advocating for the arts.  Further, museums collect, conserve, and store objects for academic research in order to continue to expand discourse on society, politics, culture, and much more.  Only SMoCA even mentions opportunities for the local artistic community, but when we look in depth at the activities of the local institutions we find a great deal of support.

Contemporary Forum (CF) is a support organization for contemporary art at the Phoenix Art Museum. CF awards up to seven grants to Arizona artists each year, totaling over $224,000 to 168 artists since 1986.  The recipients are selected through a jury process of an annual open call.  The selected artists are also exhibited the following year in the Lyon Gallery at the museum. Additionally, the Arlene and Morton Scult Contemporary Forum Artist Award is presented annually to a mid-career artist to be used for the further development in the field of art—so far granting $30,000 to six artists, who have also been featured in solo exhibitions in the museum.

The annual CF art auction is often a source of heavy debate in the local art community.  The main concern is that CF asks local artists to donate their work to the auction and the funds raised are used to procure a work of art from an internationally recognized artist from elsewhere in the world. In light of our exploration of museum missions, this now appears logical, as well as beneficial to local artists.  CF offers each artist a percentage of the funds for their work and gives them an opportunity for exposure to a wide array of art collectors and museum supporters.  The funds are used to bring a new work to the museum for the benefit of the artists—to engage with new contemporary work by an established artist—and the public.

As for exhibition opportunities, there are plenty for local artists if they know where to look and qualify for the institution guidelines, although there have been relatively few major exhibitions featuring locals.  In 2009, Phoenix Art Museum organized “Locals Only,” curated by Sara Cochran (former contemporary art curator at the museum, now Associate Director, Curator, and Educator at SMoCA).  The exhibition presented the work of 12 Chicano and Latino artists based in the Phoenix metro area and focused on issues of identity, cultural tension, and shifts in art practices.  The limited scope of the exhibition definitely excluded many local artists but was a great step in the right direction with the inclusion of local contemporary artists at the museum.

There are many opportunities for local artists to submit their work or exhibition proposals to the other major art institutions in the valley. SMoCA, Mesa Art Center, Chandler Center for the Arts, Shemer Art Center, and the West Valley Art Museum all actively call for and review submissions from any artists and have a history of showing locals.

There have also been complaints in the art community that the museum curators do not pay attention to local artists, which in our experience is not the case.  Cochran and PAM curators Vanessa Davidson and Becky Senf are regulars on the local gallery circuit.  Heather Sealy Lineberry from ASU Art Museum can also be found making the rounds on many First or Third Fridays.  There has also been more collaboration between museums and galleries recently.  Last December Phoenix Art Museum curator worked with the monOrchid to continue the exhibition “Focus Latin America: Art is our last hope” (which included many local artists) at the gallery after its run at the museum.

Bottom line—the local institutions are here to inspire, not only artists but the entire community.  They are places to explore history, engage in ideas, and use as launching pads for artistic experimentation.  They bring important work from history around the world to Phoenix so that we, as a city, can experience something not of our own place and expand our horizons.  An artist who has not done anything to build their resume, explore the limits of their work, or develop as a professional artist has no room to complain about the lack of support from the institutions.  Especially when that perspective is ignorant of fact. One suggestion to artists, stop thinking so narrowly.  Institutions around the country provide opportunities and there are so many calls for art to be found online.  Look outward to build your resume, then maybe more institutions would take notice.

That said… there are some improvements that would definitely foster connections and increase appreciation for the museums.  It would be outstanding to see more involvement in the local art community from PAM and CF, especially with a new director and hopefully soon a new contemporary curator.  New PAM Director Amada Cruz has stated that she would like the museum to organize more travelling exhibitions that originate here.  A suggestion—maybe an exhibition featuring the cream of the crop from the local talent pool. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have an assistant curator at PAM also be someone who has been immersed in the local art scene?  An idea down the line may be to inaugurate the first Museum of Local Art… It would also be amazing to see a group step up to form a Phoenix biennial that would engage the entire valley and bring art collectors in from around the world. Tucson has one, why not Phoenix! The month of March comes to mind… Use Art Detour as a launching point and get all the cities, institutions, and galleries involved.

Peter Brian Klein at Drive-Thru Gallery

Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru Gallery – a unique space resembling a carwash or storage unit just south of Roosevelt St in between 5th and 6th streets in downtown Phoenix, AZ

 

It is often stated that photography is an art of capture, not creation, which leads some to disregard it as a fine art altogether.  Peter Brian Klein’s latest exhibition Abstractions in Design proves that capturing images of the world around us can definitely create great artwork.  The show features 12 monochromatic architectural images inkjet-printed directly on brushed aluminum.

Denver Art Museum 2

Peter Brian Klein “Denver Art Museum” – Inkjet Print on Brushed Aluminum – 32 in x 21 in

These images are not your typical architectural photographs.  Klein pays primary attention to geometric patterns and iconic features of unique buildings, such as The Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, The Denver Art Museum, the United Steelworkers Building in Pittsburg, and Chase Tower in Phoenix.  Klein’s focus on specific details and patterns, along with the monochromatic print quality, creates abstract geometric images that rival modern abstractionists.  He removes the whole of the architecture and allows one to lose their sense of place in the geometry.  Klein then grounds the images in reality with organic elements, such as trees jutting into the frame, maintaining a balance of industry and nature.

Klein’s unique perspectives of the urban environment activate the viewer by allowing them to admire the aesthetic of both the image and his subjects.  He asks the viewer to participate in examining the imagery and recognizing the intimate detail of architectural forms.  As a result the images awaken a connectedness to elements in our surroundings, even the buildings that many ignore daily.

 

 

Drive-Thru Gallery Klein