Arts & Culture » Arts: Feature

Giant Robots & Other Art

The summer offers a great deal of exhibits, concerts, screenings, etc., many of which are indoors



At MOCA this Saturday night, artist Chico MacMurtrie's giant Chrysalis will come to life.

"The opening will be very dramatic," says the Brooklyn-based artist, a Bisbee native and UA art grad. "The great doors will open. And it will look like it has invaded the Great Hall."

The "it" of which MacMurtrie speaks is a 60-foot-long, 35-foot-wide, 10-foot-high "site-specific robotic installation. It's something people haven't seen before."

MacMurtrie has been making his interactive, kinetic "performing machines" for the last 10 years (check out But lately, he says, he's been wanting to make "more accurate representations of the human body"—approximations of muscle and bone.

Constructed of high-tensile fabric and urethane plastic joints, Chrysalis is run by a computer and a mechanical system that will be hidden in a pod on the ceiling. The structure "breathes" noisily, giving off a percussive sound not unlike the snorting of a large, benevolent monster.

But most shocking, it moves. And it moves when you do.

"The machine waits for people to enter, then it starts coming to life," MacMurtrie says. "You can walk right into it."

Its "muscles" will undulate and pulse, and its "bones" will bend. It will rise up, and then curl up at rest. And don't forget that this art creature that's waking up and napping is 60 feet long.

The movement Chrysalis makes, MacMurtrie says, will depend partly on how many people it's reacting too.

On quiet afternoons during the months Chryalis will occupy MOCA's Great Hall, when just a few people might wander in, Chrysalis will react differently than it will on opening night. The art creature will react to the crowds of people expected to throng the space.

"It might be pretty exciting," MacMurtrie says.

Chrysalis shares the opening with a second show, Kenneth Shorr: Actions through Redaction, a tongue-in-cheek collection of Shorr videos, photographs, collages and a "number of innovative and banned besmirching techniques."

The two shows open this Saturday night at MOCA, 265 S. Church Ave., with a reception from 7 to 8 p.m. 624-5019; Both close Sept. 15. The MOCA opening reminds Tucsonans that while the university slows down this time of year, the snowbirds fly away and locals try their best to decamp, the town's artists swelter on. Dance mostly disappears during the hot months, but visual arts, theater and classical music can readily be had.

Best of all, some of the most entertaining summer events unfurl outdoors in the evening, after the sun has gone blessedly down.

La Placita Cinema, by now a grand Old Pueblo tradition, is back screening classic movies en plein air in downtown's La Placita, a square tucked in along on Broadway, north of the Tucson Convention Center. Every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., from May clear through August, you can sit on a blanket or chair outside and watch a movie for just $3; admission includes popcorn. On rainy evenings, call 326-5282 after 7 p.m. to learn if the show will go on.

Tonight, Thursday, May 23, the 1963 Doris Day-James Garner vehicle The Thrill of It All takes a Mad Men-era look at gender roles—Day's housewife runs into trouble inside the home when she suddenly becomes successful outside it. Next week, on May 30, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis star in the sublime Some Like It Hot from 1959.

Everybody's favorite movie theater, The Loft Cinema, now has an outdoor space too. Out behind the new Screen No. 3, the new patio, Mooney Backlot Bar & Lounge, is serving drinks and munchies, and it has become a setting for loony movie-related gatherings and screenings.

A free Kubrick After Party takes place there at 9:30 p.m., Thursday, May 30. The theater has been staging a monthlong festival, A Kubrick Odyssey: The Films of Stanley Kubrick. (There's still time to catch Full Metal Jacket tonight, May 23; 2001: A Space Odyssey on May 25; and Eyes Wide Shut on May 30.) After the orgiastic Eyes Wide Shut thrashes to its climax, Kubrick fans can gather at Mooney to drink and debate. Kubrick-ites who come in costume—crazed Alex from A Clockwork Orange, anyone? —can compete for a Best in Show award.

Once a month all summer, in a recurring event called Behind the Screens, the comedy troupe Slow Clap will mix its own improv with a real movie. The Clap's M.O. is to screen a film on the Mooney wall, turn the sound down and make up all new dialogue. The next staging of this zany happening is at 9 p.m., Tuesday, June 4. Bar opens at 8 p.m. Free admission.

Besides its roster of independent movies, shown in three theaters, the Loft has plenty of other innovative options, including a fun book-and-movie club in conjunction with Antigone Books. Next pick: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut; movie at noon, followed by book discussion, Sunday, June 30. Regular movie prices apply. For a complete list of movies and events, see 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. 795-7777.

In the theater world, quite a few local troupes are skipping summer vacation. Winding Road Theater Ensemble gives Nicky Silver's The Altruists its Arizona debut in June. One critic approvingly called the black comedy about radical activists "demented." June 13 to 30 at the Cabaret Theater at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. 401-3626;

The serious Rogue Theatre goes against the comic summer grain and takes on the serious after the quake, about a 1995 earthquake that almost demolished Kobe, Japan. Playwright Frank Galati adapted two Haruki Murakami short stories. June 19-30 at the Rogue, 300 E. University Blvd. 344-8715;

The indefatigable actors of the indefatigable Live Theatre Workshop scamper though Ray Cooney's sex farce Two into One through June 9, then launch Kenneth Longeran's Lobby Hero June 20 and play that through July 27. (One critic called Lobby "the best drama, the best comedy and the best romance ... all rolled into one.") August brings Visiting Mr. Green, about a literal collision between a young exec and a cranky retiree. Runs Aug. 1-31. All Together Theatre, the LTW branch that does shows for kids, performs Miss Nelson Is Missing! every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. from May 26 to July 14. Whew! 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. 327-4242;

Concertwise, orchestras follow the example of La Placita and take their instruments and melodies outdoors, into Tucson's loveliest parks.

László Veres conducts the Tucson Pops Orchestra in free concerts under the stars in the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center in verdant Reid Park, at Country Club and 22nd Street. The free shows begin at 7 p.m. every Sunday through June 9. Nearby parking spots go fast, but free shuttle service begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Randolph Golf Course parking lot, Alvernon Way north of 22nd Street. 837-8074;

This Sunday, May 26, the Sons of Orpheus, the robust men's chorus led by Grayson Hirst, joins with the Pops for a barrel-chested rendition of the Anvil Chorus from Verdi's Il Trovatore. Singer Lindsey McHugh, a sophomore at the UA School of Music, lends a contrast to the baritone Sons with her soprano.

On June 2, a pair of violinists, George Blum and José Reves, guest-star with the Pops in a rendition of Navarra—Danza Espagnole by Sarasate. At the summer season closer June 9, the Pops delivers the grand finale, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, with volunteers from the audience helping to beat the percussive "cannons."

At the eastside Udall Park, Arizona Symphonic Winds performs free classical concerts at 7 p.m. Saturdays through June 8. Busy Maestro Veres conducts. On May 25, UA horn prof and player Daniel Katzen solos with the orchestra. On June 1, TSO cellist Theodore Buchholz plays the popular Saint-Saens Cello Concerto. On June 8, Carl Fetkenhour, the Winds' principal trumpeter, solos.

The Friday Night Live at Main Gate! summer concert series tends toward jazz. The every-other-Friday shows take place throughout the summer outdoors at Geronimo Plaza, on University between Park and Euclid. The free concerts begin at 7 p.m. This Friday, May 24, the Bob Resetar Trio does the honors.


There's still time to catch masterly Mexican photog Lola Álvarez Bravo at the Center for Creative Photography. Gorgeous black and whites from the mid-20th century run through June 23. The center—kept ice-cold for the photographs and sweltering visitors alike—is on the UA campus. Entrance is always free. 1030 N. Olive Road. 621-7968;

Across the way, at the Joseph Gross Gallery in the Art building, Claire Harlan exhibits her Grandscapes photos until Aug. 30. An artist with Tucson ties, Harlan investigates the long sweep of the desert and the built environment of cities of the Southwest. Opening reception is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. today, Thursday, May 23. Free. 626-4215.

Fresh from a series of road trips to art fairs this spring, Etherton Gallery exhibits Unpacked: The Art Fair at Home, June 18 to Aug. 31. Proprietor Terry Etherton will pull off the wrapping paper and show his hometown the photographic masterworks he's been bringing to the big art centers of Los Angeles and New York. 135 S. Sixth Ave. 624-7370; Free.

Desert Grasslands fills much of the Tucson Museum of Art with sweeping vistas of the landscape as well as up-close views of desert animals in a major show of contemporary photos, paintings and resin works. Through July 7. Feminina: Images of the Feminine from Latin America, draws from the musuem's own holdings. Ranging over time and place, the exhibition covers pre-Columbian to colonial to contemporary from all parts of the Spanish-speaking world. Through June 16. 624-2333;

To check out the small downtown galleries in one fell swoop, sail on the Summer Art Cruise on Saturday night, June 1. Roughly a dozen galleries at Sixth and Sixth and downtown stage openings at the same time. Free. For details, see the story in next week's Tucson Weekly. Performance artist Joanne Frueh takes the stage at Fluxx tonight, using movement and words to conjure the themes of her new book, A Short Book about a Big Healing. Kathleen Williamson performs her own musical compositions live. 7 p.m., Thursday, May 23. $5. 414 E. Ninth St.

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