2 weeks ago

JAVA March 2018


THOMAS BREEZE MARCUS AND DOUGLAS MILES At Royse Contemporary By Ashley Naftule Street art has many wonderful qualities. For one thing, there’s the serendipitous joy of stumbling across a mural that you didn’t know existed. What was once a dull section of wall, an unremarkable stretch of urban geography, becomes a riot of eyepopping colors and bold imagery in an instant. Part of what first drew me to downtown Phoenix was that treasure-hunt quality to street art – knowing that some random alley or back wall could be the canvas for an amazing piece. That joy of discovery is what often makes these works stand out. Freed from the walls of a gallery or museum, stumbling onto a beautifully wrought mural is like seeing an escaped zoo animal – the fact that it’s out in the world adds to its grace. But the thing about murals that really intrigues is the lack of context behind their creation. There’s no handy artist statement or museum title card affixed to a wall to tell you who’s responsible (for obvious legal reasons). Nor do the murals tell you the troubled stories of their birth: the interruptions from gawky onlookers, the hassling from cops, the battling with the elements. Each wall contains a story that only the artist knows. As the old saying goes: If these walls could talk... When I heard about Royce Contemporary’s art show If These Walls…, those unknown stories were the first thing that came to mind. The joint show, featuring the works of Douglas Miles and Thomas Breeze Marcus, celebrates the dynamic work of these two Native American fine artists and designers. For lovers of local street art, Marcus’s work, in particular, is a familiar sight. His intricate designs can be found throughout downtown. His pieces often feature flowing, interwoven line work that looks like a combination of basket-weaving designs and coloring book mazes. It isn’t hard to imagine someone in an altered state of mind getting lost for hours in those dense thickets of dead ends. Creator and founder of Apache Skateboards, Douglas Miles often applies an activist spirit to his art. His work pays tribute to his heritage and depicts the realities of life on the reservation through the use of brightly colored figures and backdrops. Whether it’s depicting crucified Natives in one image or showing a determined Native man brandishing a pistol on one of his skateboards, Miles pulls no punches. Aside from their Native backgrounds, another thing that unifies Marcus and Miles is that they use similar tools. Both artists work heavily with aerosols and paint markers to bring their elaborate pieces to life. And while they draw from different wells of inspiration, their work shares a feeling of playfulness, freedom and expansiveness. In a civilization that has cruelly pushed Native Peoples into the margins, the work they create pushes back, reclaiming the soil of their ancestors brick by brick, wall by wall, stencil by stencil. If These Walls… Through March 31 Royse Contemporary 7077 E. Main St., Suite 6, Scottsdale 18 JAVA MAGAZINE

BILL DAMBROVA ENERGY EATERS At Eric Fischl Gallery By Amy Young It has been almost three years since we wrote about Bill Dambrova and his exhibition Your Thoughts Are Not Your Own. We marveled at his colorful, large-scale paintings that guided us through the complexities of human biology, while abstractly nodding to the intricacies of all facets of our being, including the emotional and spiritual. Dambrova is currently showcasing a series of new and recent paintings at the Eric Fischl Gallery at Phoenix College. The exhibition Energy Eaters is in the same vein stylistically and easily proves the artist’s ability to outdo himself. In a way that sounds like a bombastic action-movie sequel, it’s bolder, brighter and thrilling throughout. The ramp-up in this exhibition’s overall intensity might have much to do with the fact that Dambrova feels like he’s overcome some hurdles that have let him settle into a comfortable place with his work. Not cozy in a way that will have him resting on his laurels, but a foundational milestone that allows him to look forward to new challenges and growth. “I’m not stressing about what I’m painting,” Dambrova says, “or on the narrative.” Not tethered to the idea that an artist should feel tortured or uncomfortable to make good work, he feels like he has found his flow. “In life,” he says, “you want to enjoy the processes of your endeavors. There’s already plenty of stressors in the world. I think artists should activate their studio spaces in a way they can enjoy.” “For me,” he adds, “I think feeling good makes the work stronger.” Firmly rooted, he conjures abstract shapes and creates images from the chaos that swirls around, pulling from what’s happening in his own world while examining human physical and spiritual existence. “We are spiritual beings, but our bodies are on a journey,” he says. “Through our bodies, we align ourselves with the universe. Through the painting process, I can contemplate the aspects of the journey.” In addition to Energy Eaters, Dambrova has a few other artistic projects in the works. He is also a successful exhibit designer. His confidence and builtin need to explore find him enjoying a steady stream of new and different experiences. “Diversifying, mutating, changing and adapting is important to me.” He values each project as equally important, setting excellence as the end goal. Upon invitation, Dambrova recently completed a mural at the award-winning House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe – an immersive art experience run by the Meow Wolf collective. House opened in 2016 and has been a topic of conversation ever since. It’s a multidimensional mystery house where guests tour through rooms, finding secret passages and magical worlds. Dambrova is one of six artists who created murals in new rooms in this continually evolving permanent installation. Energy Eaters Through March 22 Eric Fischl Gallery Phoenix College Fine & Performing Arts building Pleasure Cruise to the Pain World You are the Next to be Eaten JAVA 19 MAGAZINE

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