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Review

Fresh irony unlocked in Conrad's soap art

"My work explores the body as it relates to trauma, otherness, and the apparatus of pathology. I make paintings, objects, and immersive environments that represent and question the enforcement of social norms by way of symbolic or institutional power. My intention is to expose the existential risks posed by a society of correction and coercion." — Miles Conrad

Conrad's fresh immersive soap artCompound Interest — "concerning correction and coercion" (penal system, jail to the rest of you birds) — is floating above many also-rans in this year's Whitney Biennial. The exhibition includes 63 participants with works centered on "the formation of self and the individual's place in a turbulent society."

The Whitney is the longest-running survey of contemporary art in the United States; co-curated this year by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks.

Seen before it hits the road in Conrad's encaustic studio (located in the old Steinfield Warehouse where the Alamo Workshop used to reside, 101 W. 6th St.), it was soothing, lovely and smells great. Just like Mom's sheets after washing and Bouncing. Amazing considering it references the pattern of walls and prison. Irony, irony, thy name is art.

At the Conrad Wilde Gallery (in the same venue) is Resist: The Art of Disruption. The curatorial statement reads: "This exhibit is intended to add to the body of imminent visual culture that is arising in response to and in protest of the unqualified, divisive and pathological figure that is Donald J. Trump. On the levels of policy, rhetoric, and persona, he is widely held to be the most dangerous public figure; to ascend to world political power since Adolph Hitler. Never has a presidential inauguration sparked such widespread protest, both in the United States and on every continent abroad."

The great thing about running an art gallery, especially one not funded by the U.S. government, is that you can anything you want about your show.

Is the statement an accurate depiction of what's in the gallery? Not to me.

This is a wide-ranging, somewhat funky show of many conceptual works (see Beata Wehr's Let's make America Great Again, sheep clippers in a tool box), some sculpture and video works.

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Let's get clear. When an artist shows a work in a public gallery with price tag attached it is assumed, by me, that they are open to comment.

On one wall is hung Cradle of Civilization, consisting of two carpets, distressed by artist Ozlem Ayse Ózúr. It is what might be called "an Oriental carpet," looking to be from the Middle East. It is split, frayed burnt and singed with two holes. I might certainly get the notion of a distressed Arab country but its price tag is as absurd as the price of a military commode: $7,500. But if the buyer likes it, pues.

More to the point of slash and burn is Michael Cajero's sculpture There is a point of possible entry and escape in this sculpture that has a fetal figure readied for the blows from a zealot with a stick. But this is similar to many of his tortured figures of the past.

A wry piece, a gold-painted taxidermy javelina, by Sean-Paul Pluguez, seems an apt comment on trophyism than The Donald's wanna-be-gilded head.

Most to the point is Greg Schoon's Whole Cloth Black Flag, a lush evocative velvet, leather, cotton and silk flag that gives the sense of a country enveloped in mourning.

Would that more works in this show be noticeably relevant.

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Compond Interest by Miles Conrad, Conrad Wilde Gallery. This is a miniature bas-relief tableau cast in heavily fragranced white soap representing the iconography of incarceration for participation in the Debtfair project by Occupy Museums for the Whitney Museum of American Art 2017 Biennial.

What, where & when in arts

'RESIST! The Art of Disruption'

This timely named show of works by 15 artists including Michael Cajero, Simon Donovan, Beata Wehr and Sean Paul Pluguez runs through Feb. 25.

Regular hours at Conrad Wilde Gallery, 101 W. 6th St., Tuesday—Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m

Connecting to Your Creativity: A Mindfulness Drawing

Have a creative weekend with acclaimed artist Pat Dolan at the historic C.O.D. Ranch in Oracle. You'll be shown how to make landscapes using pastels, charcoal, watercolor, gouache and ink. According to a release from the The Drawing Studio, "Through art, journaling, and mindfulness exercises you'll rediscover the essence of place, your own creative self, and the nourishing connections between. All skill levels accepted."

March 17-19: Friday, 4-9 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. | $420 fee includes tuition, food and double lodging. TDS Member fee $378. For more information or to sign up contact The Drawing Studio.

If You Stay Busy You Have No Time to be Unhappy

Coinciding with their twentieth anniversary, the Museum of Contemporary Art presents an exhibition of work by more than 80 artists, showcasing a diversity of mediums, materials, sizes, and creative backgrounds. Selections are stylistically varied, encompassing figurative and abstract paintings, photographs, drawings, text pieces, sculptures, ceramics, furniture, and boundary-defying objects. Staged at what they term a "historical moment of uncertainty and upheaval, the exhibition asks questions that are important and relevant in 2017." One can only hope. The curatorial assemblage aims to provide a living record of a vibrant past, present, and future and invites conversation between museum and community, between works of art, between artists, and the art world in general. It runs Feb. 18-May 28 along with Andy Steinbrink's "How to Make and Mend Cast Nets," Dennis Jeffy's "From Antelope Springs" and John Kilduff's"The Joy of Multitasking."

MOCA is open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5 p.m. at 265 S. Church Ave.

'Terra Mater'

Mayme Kratz, Michael Lundgren, Christopher Colville

This show of photographic, mixed media works by three Phoenix artists provides an intimate look at the processes of ruin and regeneration in the Sonoran Desert at Etherton Gallery through March 11.

Etherton Gallery, 135 S. 6h Ave., is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m.-5p.m.

'The Left Turn Lane: Art Quilts'

Self-trained Tucson artist Thelma Scudi shows works in cloth and mixed media at the JCC Fine Arts Gallery through March 7. Her theme is the economic viability of older, suddenly single older women.

Of her art quit titled "Left Turn Lane @1," Scudi says "I'll be damned if I find myself standing in the Left Turn Lane, with a sign, at 80."

Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Rd. Gallery hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday and Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Saturday and Jewish holidays

'Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life'

A multi-faceted exhibit (lectures, photography, poetry, food and music) based on the life and work of iconic artist Frida Kahlo is at Tucson Botanical Gardens through May 31. It features a recreation of Kahlo's garden in Mexico City. The show is included with Gardens admission (adult $13, senior $12, ages four—seven- $7-50, members and children under three, free).

Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way

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