Ready for Receptions? 

Downtown-area galleries kick off the fall with 'The Big Picture'

Over at Tucson's newest gallery, color photographs were propped up against the walls last weekend, waiting to be hung in time for this Saturday's "The Big Picture" festivities.

Monumental stone pillars rose up out of bleak landscapes in the pictures, which were visible through the windows at The FRONT @ platform. Photographed by Tucson artist Allan Sturm, the finely detailed works will be in the FRONT's debut exhibition, in the highly visible corner space at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue formerly occupied by Platform Gallery.

It was tempting to see Sturm's arresting images of endurance as metaphors for perseverance in hard times. Platform closed earlier this summer, a victim of the weak economy, yet The FRONT's director, Lin Cohorn, is bursting with optimism for her new project.

Her gallery, she reports via e-mail, is all about "creative risk."

"We are a frontier gallery in a frontier town," she writes. She'll show work that expands "conceptual boundaries, ... merg(es) traditional mediums with new technologies" and encourages "collaborations among artists across disciplines."

Her ambitious program calls for a new exhibition every month; artists from Tucson will show alongside a so-called "Worldview Artist" from abroad. October's international artist is a 16-year-old Iranian photographer named Khashayan Toode Fallah, whose work, Cohorn says, shows an unexpected maturity in both content and technique. If all goes well, Internet-wise, she'll have Fallah do a live web video chat during the Saturday-night opening.

Cohorn herself is the third photog in this show, which she's given the forward-looking name of NoReverse. Her best work breaks all the technical rules, she says. One of her color photos, "buildingpageexp," looks like raindrops on metal after a storm—another sign, perhaps, of sunny skies ahead. The Front @ platform, 439 N. Sixth Ave.; 882-3886; www.the-front-gallery.com. Reception 6 to 9 p.m.

Front is one of about a dozen galleries flinging open their doors during "The Big Picture" this Saturday night, Oct. 2. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the free event kicks off the fall art season in Tucson, showcasing the offerings of member galleries in the Central Tucson Gallery Association (www.ctgatucson.org). Many galleries offer drinks or a bite to eat.

Here's a list of what else to see:

Dinnerware Artspace, 119 E. Toole Ave.; 792-4503; www.dinnerwarearts.com. Reception 7 to 9 p.m. Longtime CTGA member Dinnerware is assuming still another incarnation. After hopping around the last couple of years, from Fourth Avenue to Congress Street to West Sixth Street, the former co-op gallery now alights at a new downtown location on Toole Avenue between Sixth and Seventh avenues. Director David Aguirre envisions the new warehouse location as a conglomeration of galleries, studios and a performance space.

The place won't open for another six weeks or so, but Aguirre is offering a peek of the building's exterior with Luminous, a grouping of illuminated outdoor installations.

Davis Dominguez Gallery, 154 E. Sixth St.; 629-9759; www.davisdominguez.com. Reception 6 to 8 p.m. Davis Dominguez Gallery marks its 35th season, celebrating its survival through good times and bad, with a brilliantly colored show of works by three expressionist painters.

Tucson artist Albert Kogel revisits his psychologically piercing portraits in acrylic on wood. Fractured into pieces, gouged out and re-assembled, pictures like "Big Girl" plumb the multiple parts of personality. Without being corny, his lovable dog works summon up the traits that make the canine so cherished: open-faced affection, wide accepting eyes and smiling mouths.

Robert Royhl of Montana uses multiple media—oil on linen and glittery colored pigments—in glowing paintings and etchings. The painting "Sanctuary Cove" allusively evokes the Sonoran Desert with plants, birds and humans floating through undefined space. In the masterful etching "Boating," though, Royhl leaves color behind, instead using black-and-white line and shadows to conjure up the watery reflections of figures in a dinghy.

The third artist, Judith Burns McCrea, a professor in Kansas, will haul a truckload of her paintings to Tucson in time for "The Big Picture," according to gallery co-owner Candice Davis. Judging by a sample image, the oil on paper "Earthbound," McCrea paints figures drifting through passages of bright color.

Contreras Gallery, 110 E. Sixth St.; 398-6557; www.contrerashousefineart.com. Reception 6 to 9 p.m. Next door to Davis Dominguez, Contreras starts off the ghostly season early. El Día de los Muertos Artist Invitational features skeletal Day of the Dead works by gallery owners Neda Contreras and E.M. Contreras, along with artists Jennifer Eschedor, Antonio Estrada, Carolyn King, Mark Matlock, Ruben Moreno, Barbara Peabody, Hector Perez, Martin Quintanilla and David Tineo.

Conrad Wilde Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., No. 171; 622-8997; www.conradwildegallery.com. Reception 6 to 9 p.m. On the same block, this little gallery shows cutting-edge work in innovative materials. The new exhibition, Radiance: Light, Space and Perception, presents paintings by Lori del Mar, video by Heather Hutchison and a wall sculpture by Carrie Seid. Art-lovers can get an early start on the evening with an artists' talk at 5 p.m.

Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop, 218 E. Sixth St.; 881-5335; raicestaller222.webs.com. Reception 7 to 10 p.m. The late-night partiers at Raices throw a reception for the large group show Espacios Nuevos/New Spaces. Closing Oct. 9, the show brings together 25 guest artists along with Raices co-op members in exploring "creative spaces." Raices always has the latest party on the evening tour.

Philabaum Glass Gallery and Studio, 711 S. Sixth Ave.; 884-7404; www.philabaumglass.com. Reception 4 to 7 p.m. Just south of downtown, in the district newly dubbed SoCo—south of Congress—Philabaum fires up Playing With Fire, a six-person exhibition of flameworked glass. Also known as lampworking, the technique usually calls for the artist to manipulate the hot glass with tools. The daring artists are Bandhu Dunham, Loy Allen, Kathleen Elliot, Shane Fero, Robert Mickelsen and Margaret Zinser.

The Drawing Studio, 33 S. Sixth Ave.; 620-0947; www.thedrawingstudio.org. Reception 6 to 9 p.m. The combo gallery/school brings its faculty show to a close. Living on the Edge of the Pimería Alta examines the impact of local landscape and geography on the artists' work. Lisa Mishler, for one, makes lush, loose abstractions, in which one craggy shape after another flows across the surface, like cracks in the desert floor or a stream through a canyon.

Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery, Pima Community College West Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road; 206-6942; www.pima.edu/cfa. Reception 6 to 8 p.m. It's worth a trip over to the west side to see Portraits. (Note the early closing time.) Previously unseen works by the late, great Lou Bernal, for whom the gallery is named, are a highlight of the three-person show at Pima, where Bernal once headed the photography department.

Bernal made exquisite portraits and still-lifes in Tucson's Mexican-American barrios, bringing to light the home altars of old women, the tattoos of tough guys and the pungent colors of painted adobe. Drawing from his contact sheets, his family has selected images that have never before been printed.

Current photography department head Ann Simmons-Myers exhibits color portraits of Tucsonans at work and play; her photos were all shot in the last year. (Simmons-Myers also has work up now at the Tucson International Airport.)

Hirotsune Tashima, head of ceramics at Pima, does his cheerful portraiture in fired clay. In his Organic Banana series, he adorns his self-portraits with bananas, humorously deploying the ordinary fruit as a "symbolic icon for everyday life."

Joseph Gross Gallery, 1031 N. Olive Road; 626-4215; www.cfa.arizona.edu/galleries. No reception. Member gallery Joseph Gross doesn't have Saturday hours, but it's worth stopping by during the week (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to see Gregory Euclide's wild environmental installation, Real, Natural and Unsustainable.


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