Fall Arts Preview: Visual Arts

It's a whole new season of artful protestations, abstractions and sheer beauty

A slice of the border wall moves north this fall and occupies the Museum of Contemporary Art. Bisecting MOCA's Great Hall—which once housed the city's fire engines—the 64-foot, 12-foot-high wall is the real thing: it once severed California from Baja Arizona. After the Border Patrol discarded that stretch of rusted wall for something even bigger and uglier, artist Paul Turounet salvaged a chunk and turned it into tortured art.

In the installation "Estamos Buscando A" (We Are Searching for ... ), his repurposed wall will split the gallery in two, mirroring the border divide between the U.S. and Mexico. Dirt and rocks and migrant belongings will be scattered across the floor. Photos of real-life migrants, printed on sparkly aluminum, will hang on the metal barrier, glowing like retablos in a church.

Turounet's installation in one of three border-related art shows that will fill the museum Oct. 7 through Dec. 31. New MOCA director Ginger Shulick Porcella makes a splashy debut with the triple exhibition, her first as leader of the 20-year-old museum. Public opening reception Saturday, Oct. 7, at 8 p.m. Turounet gives a talk Sunday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m. Through Dec. 31.

Over at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, where the staff can't stop smiling ever since the return of the museum's stolen Willem de Kooning painting earlier this month (talk about glowing!), two shows will tackle the volatile issues of immigration and the border. In Transit/En tránsito, Sept. 16 to March 11, explores migration and human rights. La Frontera shows selected works by painter Erin Currie Sept. 30 to Jan. 7. In a historical note, art history prof Dr. Pia Cueno and curator Olivia Miller mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation's beginning with an exhibition of nine Old Master prints. Through Dec. 17. artmuseum.arizona.edu

James G. Davis, painter, printmaker and UA art prof, is memorialized in James G. Davis (1931-2016): Down at the Tower Bar at Etherton Gallery. The first major survey of Davis since a UAMA retrospective in 2004, the show emphasizes his "cinematic large-scale" paintings. Ironically, thought Davis lived in the Rancho Linda Vista art colony in rural Oracle, he specialized in edgy urban-tinged works, like the panoramic titular work "Tower Bar." This monumental narrative work "tells the stories of the bar's workers and patrons." Son Turner G. Davis, an admired painter in his own right, shows his work in the Axial Gallery. Michael Chittock exhibits small paintings in the pop-up gallery. Exhibition opens with a reception, 7-10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 9, and closes Nov. 11. ethertongallery.com

The Tucson Museum of Art, whose galleries have been closed for several months, celebrates a major re-do of its 1974 building with a major show, Dress Matters: Clothing as Metaphor. It's a multi-media exhibition of works by 49 contemporary artists, curated by the museum's Dr. Julie Sasse, includes such name artists as Jim Dine, Nick Cave and Sama Alshaibi. A multi-genre artist of Iraqi-Palestinian heritage who teaches at the UA, Alshabi contributes a photo of two figures in traditional white robes, from her Silsila project, which took her to the Middle East and North Africa. A fun sideshow, Desert Dweller, focuses on Tucson original fashion, from the mid-century glory days of Cele Peterson on up to today. Both shows open with a members' reception Friday, Oct. 20. Then, all weekend long, on Oct. 21 and 22, the museum will be free and open to the public. A platoon of food trucks will be on hand as part of the re-opening festivities. Desert Dweller continues until Jan. 28, Dress Matters until Feb. 18. Tucsonmuseumofart.org.

Davis Dominguez Gallery, another downtown stalwart, stages "Kaleidoscope: New Abstract Works" Sept. 15 to Nov. 4. All three of its artists are painters: Brooke Grucella, curator of the cutting-edge artspace Joseph Gross at UA; Amy Metier, a gallery regular from Colorado who paints elegant abstractions; and John Birmingham, a UA grad whose imagery is inspired by nature. Davisdominguez.com. The reception Oct. 7 is part of The Big Picture, an evening of multiple gallery openings sponsored by the Central Tucson Gallery Association. Participating galleries include Contreras, with a Surrealist Stew exhibition, Raices Taller (Sentidos) and Conrad Wilde (Traces).

The excellent Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at Pima College West opens its first show of the season next week with Surroundings, a four-artist show that examines place and environment. Using abstraction, water sprays and various other techniques, the four artists—Patricia Carr Morgan, Aaron Coleman, W. Ray Parish and Michael Stack—ruminate variously on icebergs, whales, water, social justice and art. Curated by David Andres, the show runs Sept. 5 to Oct. 6. Opening reception is 5 p.m., Sept. 7; art lecture is 6 p.m., Sept. 21.

Last week, Tohono Chul got an early start on Día de los Muertos with an exhibition honoring the ancient Mexican Day of the Dead. The large group show features contemporary artists who merge folk art skeletons and masks and papel picado with up-to-the-minute techniques. Día runs clear through Nov. 8. Tohonochulpark.org

Don't forget the out-of-gallery art activities. The popular self-guided Open Studio Tours run Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 for artist studios located north of River Road, all the way up to Catalina. The studios south of River Road will open their doors on Oct. 7 and 8. artsfoundtucson.org/arts/ost.

A couple of independent artist groups stage their own tours. The artists in Art Trails, hailing from Northwest Tucson, Oro Valley and Marana, have set their tour for Oct. 21 and 22. Arttrails.org. The Heart of Tucson, a group of central Tucson artists, will be ready for touring art lovers on Oct. 28 and 29. heartoftucsonart.org

And Tucson Meet Yourself, the great ur-Tucson arts festival, rolls out Oct. 13, 14 and 15 at El Presidio and the Main Library plaza. Run by the Southwest Folk Alliance, the multi-genre extravaganza celebrates the “living traditional arts” of southern Arizona and northern Mexico, covering everything from folk art to dance to music and, of course, food. tucsonmeetyourself.org.