New exhibitions from the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum Riff on Jazz Music

It’s all about jazz at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, where every gallery is filled this season with jazz-inspired artwork.

You can be the first to see them at Get Jazzed, a free season kickoff festival happening Friday, September 14 at the Mesa Arts Center. The festival features live music on three stages, as well as five new exhibitions.

A group show called “Jazz It Up!” includes a mural by Phoenix-based Tato Caraveo, an artist whose work dots the landscape of downtown Phoenix. He is also a musician who mainly plays bass, but also guitar and drums.

“I like to paint bass players because the bass has an interesting shape and I can play with the deformation,” explains Caraveo. Before painting his mural on a portable gallery wall, Caraveo sketched his design in pencil while seated in a desk-style wheelchair.

The “Jazz It Up!” The exhibit includes works by 15 additional artists, including Fred Tieken, a designer who spent years as a professional musician and now operates galleries in Phoenix and Los Angeles. a variety of cross-cultural references.

Click to enlarge

Joe Willie Smith plays on one of the many sound sculptures during the installation of his exhibition “Ko Mo — Not Knowing”.

Lynn Trimble

The exhibition program also includes “Ko Mo – Not Knowing”, a solo exhibition by Joe Willie Smith. He is a Phoenix-based artist and musician best known for his sculptural works using objects found in places like alleyways, junkyards, and thrift stores. Smith’s Musical chairs piece, presented and performed at the Gebert Contemporary in 2013, is also part of the show Mesa.

Smith first loaded several of his sound sculptures into the museum’s North Gallery, followed by another day of paintings. “Each of my paintings is a musical score,” says Smith. “I look at him, and he makes me hear a sound.” The exhibition includes several new paintings made over the past few months, each with a distinct meaning for the artist. “Each tends to provoke a certain musical graphic design and meditation on things that have happened in my life.”

Three other artists have solo exhibitions at Mesa Contemporary Arts this season.

“Jazz Stories” features works by Faith Ringgold, a New York-based artist whose career spans more than six decades. Through media such as sculpture, painting, textile art, and performance, Ringgold addresses both her own experiences as a black woman living in America and the issues of social justice central to American life.

This exhibit includes several Ringgold quilts and works on paper infused with elements of jazz culture. “We show works that create a beautiful conversation about slavery and the origins of jazz,” says Tiffany Fairall, curator of exhibits at the museum.

For “Crazy Vibes and Thangs,” the museum showcases recent jazz-inspired work by Atlanta-based illustrator Frank Morrison, whose paintings of underrepresented people and places draw heavily on graffiti and hip-hop culture. poof.

Click to enlarge

Reyes Padilla while working on his installation at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum.

Lynn Trimble

“Eras of Jazz: The Visual” features an installation by Reyes Padilla, a New Mexico-based artist born with what is called synesthesia, which causes him to visualize the sounds he hears. “Synaesthesia is a crossing of the senses,” says Padilla. “I get a visual in my mind when I hear something.”

Recently, Padilla transformed a gallery space called Project Room, painting while listening to jazz musicians from different eras. Like Smith and Caraveo, he is also a musician. But there is a twist. “I played in a band, and I would say to my bandmates, ‘This song is blue,'” he says.

Padilla is also colorblind, which is why he prefers to work primarily in black and white. But her Mesa installation also includes other colors, including gold and pink. “Gold performs jazz for me, with the bright, edgy feel of the instruments.” Padilla spent several days on the installation with hard hats, often painting on a scissor lift while layering new lines and colors.

Through various media and styles, each of these artists channels the power of jazz to forge a human connection. Fairall puts it best: “Jazz is such a great bridge, not only between the visual arts and music, but also between different people.”

Season launch festival: Get Jazzed. 6-11 p.m. Friday, September 14 at the Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street. 480-644-6560; Free entry. Visit

Ada J. Kenney