Inside Out

Exhilarating “Revisions” show at Tohono Chul lionizes inventive art made from found objects

Jeffrey Jonczyk is painter of jazzy geometric abstractions.

His circles and swoops and squares reverberate in crayon-bright colors, calling up the cacophony of jam-packed streets on bright city nights. Incongruously, at the same time, they somehow suggest the tidy regularity of an agricultural landscape.

"Pop #2," a big acrylic and oil stick painting in the Revisions show at Tohono Chul Park, is divided in two. The right side is a marvel of swirls in white, black and gray, curving and overlapping above a grid of blue and green squares. To the left, four rectangles are stacked top to bottom, each one pulsating with supercharged color and line. The stripes conjure up the furrows and fields of a farm, and the loopy squares in one rectangle pay homage to the patchwork quilt of rural America.

Jonczyk's joyful paintings could stand side by side with the work of any highfalutin' fine-art painter in every respect but one: the Tucson artist paints on trash. Forget fine linen and cotton canvases; this artist prefers torn-up cardboard and tossed-out planks that he scavenges on the streets.

The lovely "Confluence," a diptych devoted to circles and stripes, is painted on old sheets of plywood, and its pungent colors flow into the grooves of the splintery boards. "Pop #2" is painted on a wooden board, and two collages in the show are made of flimsy cardboard destined to disintegrate.

For the collages Jonczyk finds big pieces of cardboard, paints them a single color, then cuts them into corrugated strips. Following his own intuition—and serendipity—he arranges the fragments into horizontal bands, creating exuberant striped collages of multiple colors.

Joncyzk is not the only artist in this show who's salvaging odd materials and remaking them into things of beauty. Featuring 50 works by 34 artists, the exhibition is called Revisions, after all, and innovative recycling is one of its main themes.

"The exhibition celebrates unusual approaches that borrow from visionary, outsider and folk art traditions, as well as works that elevate reclaimed, repurposed and recycled materials," writes Tohono Chul curator James Schaub.

More than a few of the artists borrow the grid patterns of traditional quilt-making, giving a nod to unsung folk artists. And nearly all of them use found objects, making veiled points about waste and environmental degradation. The list of their source materials is endless.

A white rope metamorphosed into a coiling pedestal sculpture in Tom Martin's "Cristate." Barbara Jo McLaughlin's "Waterspout" deployed a fire hose; this lowly tool, winding round and round, became the central element in a pale, modernist 3-D piece on the floor.

Chris Tanz harvested laundry lint from her dryer. Best known for her public art pieces in town, including "Sun Circle" on the Rillito river walk, this time she went for the domestic and the intimate. She divided her lint specimens up by color and gently placed each fluffy pile into a rectangular Plexiglas frame. Then she organized the frames into a tasteful nine-panel grid that showcases soft wads in alluring tones of pink and rose and gray. You'd never guess the piece, "Against Entropy," had anything to do with dirty clothes.

Royce Davenport, who regularly exhibits in Tohono Chul's recycled-art shows, used a zippered purse in his electric portrait of a Mexican wrestler. The zipper forms the mouth of the luchador's shiny face, and Christmas lights twinkle around the frame.

Sharon Holnback paid homage to the old folk art standby of glass trees in her three "Spire" sculptures. Holnback, who's turning part of her Triangle L Ranch in Oracle into a sculpture garden, says in her artist's statements that traditional bottle trees were "believed to capture evil spirits." She sought out discarded green glass bottles, sliced out the necks, smoothed them out and then threaded the hollow cylinders "like beads" onto a steel rod. Her shimmering trees, at more than 6 feet high, tower over the gallery.

Erinn Kennedy uses the conventional art materials of acrylic and pencil in her beguiling paintings, but she draws on a naïve folk art aesthetic. In "Road to Phoenix," a pastel-colored painting inspired by frequent drives up I-10, Kennedy scrambles standard perspective, juxtaposing a bird's-eye view of fields with images of palo verdes right-side up. Her "San Xavier Mission" is downright charming. The two-towered church is like a tiny dollhouse on the horizon, almost lost in the vast expanse of desert and highway.

The spray-paint can, that urban icon, is the stock in trade of featured artist Clark Trujillo. Trained as a jeweler, Trujillo likes to wander with his dogs, Schaub says, traipsing down washes and under bridges, collecting the spray cans left behind by graffiti "artists."

Once he collects a bundle, he undertakes on a risky task: he cuts the cans open, rolls them out flat, then hammers them into rectangles. Carefully folding back the sharp-edged sides, Trujillo turns the cans inside out. The interior of the cans, still sporting traces of colored paint, become the exterior. Suddenly, the ugly pieces of trash turn into handsome metal tiles, gleaming like gems.

Trujillo's "Template Self" is a grid of 18 of these beauties. The aluminum glitters, and the leftover spray paint shimmers lemon yellow and royal blue. Only a few splatters of brown dots, left over from the metal's more rambunctious days, recall the cans' origins as a bane of city life. In the artist's hands, they've gone from trash to art.