Mike Stack started out as a figurative painter.
Not realistic, mind you. His shows at Davis Dominguez Gallery once featured cacti billowing out into globe-like shapes, and little girls occupying a surrealistic desertscape.
But some years back, Stack pared back, and then pared some more. His landscapes gave way to lines—nothing but lines, hundreds and thousands of them, stretched out horizontally in narrow bands of color, one atop the other. Stack's stripes are luscious but tiny, some no more than a quarter-inch high.
He's showing his stripes right now at Davis Dominguez, one of about a dozen galleries opening Saturday night for the Art Safari, the collective spring-season kickoff for the members of the Central Tucson Gallery Association.
Stack's 10 paintings, all oils on linen, either investigate all of the iterations of blue—sky, turquoise, dusty, denim, midnight, azure—or every variation on purple, from pink to lavender to violet to fuchsia.
As abstract as these blue and purple pieces are, though, I can't help but see a glimmer of the old Stack landscapes in them. Stand back and stare at the shimmering lines, and shapes start showing up. Nearly every painting has a pale band of light about three-quarters of the way up, exactly where the horizon would be in a traditional landscape painting. For example, "Pilot," one of the purple paintings, changes to the palest pink at the horizon line.
And the individual stripes sometimes change color, going from dark on the edges to light in the center. Look long enough, and these light variations in the middle start seeming like open space—a meadow, say, or the desert floor below the mountains. "Siphon Draw," another purple work, is one that combines the pale horizontal with the bright open space.
Even the titles hint at landscape. "Between Pine and Spruce #4" is all beautiful blues in cheery turquoise tones. The title suggests the desert sky in the bright blue winter, glimpsed in between mountain trees. In "Above Oracle," the blues have faded to twilight lavenders, and the light on the horizon is the pale yellow of the disappearing sun.
Longtime gallery artist Stack is paired with newcomer Steve Murphy, a Houston artist who also crafts elegant abstractions. ("Reductive art" is the new buzz term for abstraction, gallery co-owner Candice Davis says.) But where Stack's works are in oil and linen, Murphy's are in stone, metal, wood and lead—hefty 3-D sculptures presiding on the floor or jutting outward from the wall.
The lines of his pieces are nearly as simple as Stack's, but Murphy adds curves and arcs to his straight edges. And like Stack's, his colors are more complex than they appear at first. The all-black "Big Brother," a crescent-shaped slice of lead-covered wood, is actually nicely mottled, with grays, charcoals and even hints of rust popping out of the black. Likewise, "What You See or Their Words," an arc rising 6 feet up from the floor, is made of carbon steel, a material that suggests harshness and flintiness. But it's warm and coppery-looking, with textures of rust.
Davis Dominguez, 154 E. Sixth St.; 629-9759; www.davisdominguez.com; reception from 6 to 8 p.m. this Saturday night, Feb. 5.
All of the Art Safari receptions are free, and most offer refreshments. Besides the new reductive art at Davis Dominguez, the evening offers up a sneak preview of Tucson's upcoming glass- art extravaganza, an artist's talk, a peek at the latest incarnation of Dinnerware and a response to the deadly shootings of Jan. 8.
Early birds should start out at Joseph Gross Gallery in the UA Fine Arts Complex at Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard. The gallery is usually closed on weekends, but director Brooke Grucella is opening it for the occasion on Saturday afternoon only. She's also extending, by one day, the book-arts show Double Vision: Julie Chen and Clifton Meador, which was supposed to close Friday.
"Julie's work is more sculptural than typical books," Grucella says. "Clifton's are more in the book form than Julie's; he has more offset prints." 626-4215; cfa.arizona.edu/galleries; noon to 4 p.m. (no evening reception).
In the Warehouse District near Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street, Conrad Wilde Gallery is also starting early: An artist talk is at 5 p.m., followed by a reception. And Wilde is also delving into the book arts: Reconstructions exhibits found books "modified" by local and national artists, including Jessica Drenk, Margaret Suchland and gallery director Miles Conrad. 439 N. Sixth Ave., No. 171; 622-8997; www.conradwildegallery.com; reception 6 to 9 p.m.
A few doors up, Contreras Gallery is hosting Landscapes With Flowers, a show of watercolors by Frank Rose that heralds the start of the wildflower season. Rose's renderings of the Southern Arizona landscape are traditional rather than reductive, with such titles as "Molino in Spring" and "Desert in Bloom." 110 E. Sixth St.; 398-6557; contrerashousefineart.com; reception 6 to 10 p.m.
Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop is staging an impromptu exhibition, Curación (healing), in response to the slaughter in Tucson last month. Local artists were invited to contribute works in any medium celebrating the "strength and resiliency of our residents." 218 E. Sixth St.; 881-5335; www.raicestaller222.org; reception 7 to 9 p.m.
Platform Gallery, on the corner at Sixth and Sixth, is re-occupying the front room recently vacated by the now-defunct Front @ Platform. The lineup of artists for Art Safari was not available at press time. 439 N. Sixth Ave.; 882-3886; www.platformart.com.
On the westside, at Pima Community College's Louis Carlos Bernal Art Gallery, neon artist James White opens up his solo show a few days early. Neon Sculptures: James White officially opens Tuesday, but gallery director David Andres wanted to get in on the first round of openings for the ¡Viva el Vidrio! glass-art festival. (See the Spring Arts Preview, Jan. 13.) The Arizona State University art prof uses glass neon tubes to bring light and color to his sculptural works, an innovation that signals the diversity of the glass Tucson will be seeing over the next few months. 2202 W. Anklam Road; 206-6942; www.pima.edu/cfa; reception 6 to 8 p.m.
Downtown, at über-glass headquarters Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery, the glass madness formally begins with the opening of It's a Dry Heat: Arizona and New Mexico Glass Artists. The nine artists present a veritable catalog of glass-arts techniques, from cast to blown to flame-worked, from fused to tapestry. 711 S. Sixth Ave.; 884-7404; philabaumglass.com; reception 5 to 8 p.m.
The Drawing Studio has a party for The Rise of the Print: Midcentury Masters of American Printmaking. The show covers the period from the "post-war renaissance of American printmaking" of the early 1950s up until the present time, and exhibits 30 significant printmakers, some of them now deceased. The Drawing Studio's Andrew Rush is among the exhibitors. 33 S. Sixth Ave.; 620-0947; www.thedrawingstudio.org; reception 6 to 9 p.m.
Dinnerware Artspace puts on a one-night-only show of work by 12 artists from Central Arts to introduce the community to its newest new space, at 119 E. Toole Ave. David Aguirre plans a "collection of art galleries and workshop spaces" in the 16,000-square-foot building, including darkrooms and spots for printmaking, ceramics and yoga. A microbrewery is also on the drawing board. Fragment Gallery expects to open nearby at 19 E. Toole Ave. in March. "I'm calling it the rise of the arts district," Aguirre says. (Dinnerware hosts a symposium, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 17, on new developments in the district.) 119 E. Toole Ave.; 869-3166; www.dinnerwarearts.com; reception 6 to 9 p.m.