Last weekend we went to one of our favorite recurring events, the Downtown Chamber Series, which is held 5 or 6 times a year. The series brings chamber music to distinctive art spaces in downtown Phoenix, showcasing professional musicians (many from the Phoenix Symphony) and the works of local artists. Additionally, wine and refreshments are served at intermission and this is all for the whopping price of 10 bucks! The series has been in existence since 2000 and we have been attending almost from the beginning.
Last week’s event was held at one of the more unusual and unique venues they frequent, the historic Icehouse, an original 1910 icehouse built along the railroad tracks formerly used to keep produce cold before shipping. The art displayed this evening was a special exhibit by some Arizona State University art students just for the two nights of the concert.
The most compelling works (in my opinion) were by ASU M.F.A. candidate Benjamin Phillips, already an award-winning sculptor, from Nova Scotia. The piece above is entitled American Oedipus. This is what Benjamin says about it: “The metaphorical implications of Sophocles’ tragic nobleman, fated to wander blind and begging seems fitting for representing the doubts and anxieties of a once great people; now seemingly doomed to a disparate future, lacking beauty and utterly vulnerable.”
The stark lighting and the shadows cast on the old brick walls and concrete floors added to the raw feeling of these almost life-sized figures.
This piece is called The Obsessive Man and is described by the artist: “T.O.M. merges the idea of obsessive compulsion with an implied peace of sleep, in the form of a sleepwalker. The conflicting signals enhance the psychological disturbance of a dream in compliment with the eccentricities of the form itself.”
This is Benjamin Phillips’ artist statement:
“The figures invoke anxieties about the body and flawed features that we tend to avoid looking and thinking about. Compiled from disparate components, sometimes in wrong scale or oddly joined, the figures project an abject discomfort and uncertainty. This unsettling representation calls upon the viewer’s willingness to empathize with another individual’s shame and/or discomfort.
My composite bodies suggest questions about how we define social status and its relationship to beauty and revulsion. These questions come to life in the physical interplay between the viewer and the sculpture. My freestanding sculptures are generally between four to five feet, to frame the object in the realm between child and elderly. This creates an expectation of frailty and subordination.”
Autumn (above) “explores aspects of uncertainty through wavering confidence, independence and grace. Autumn, the transitional season preceding winter, is portrayed off balance in mid-recline. It appears bleak, yet unresolved.”
There was another of his sculptures there, Effeme, but it was in a smaller area leading to the concert room so I didn’t photograph it but you can see it and more of his striking work on his website.
If you live in Phoenix and like music or art or downtown galleries or wine or all of the above, you should really try out the Downtown Chamber Series in March, which will be held at Modified Arts, another distinctive downtown art space.