Crusty old curmudgeon vs Easy to please?

I have returned from the rain and the general pavement hardness of NYC with a little nugget to share after a long silence. The New Museum's current show "The Generational: Younger Than Jesus" peaked my interest in its showcase of 50 international artists under the age of 33. Not quite fitting into that category, myself, but damn close enough to care (me and Jesus, forever 33!), I found to my surprise that out of the show, the simplist gestures were the things that stuck.

...Like the gallery attendant wearing a long, red ponytail and a white Adidas tracksuit who troubleshot a cranky plasma display on Floor #4. Look closely to see the most delicate red paint stains on her clean, sporty duds. Or, the banana peel tossed on the gallery floor. Accident? Art? Pay attention...they are the purposeful gestures of Ryan Gander and Adriana Lara (in that order). In an age where Attention Deficit Disorder seems to be the M.O., I was glad that my focus allowed me to catch these small incongruities and appreciate them.

Ziad Antar "Wa" (2004), video, installation view

Above: Ziad Antar, "Wa", 2004, video (installation view from "Younger Than Jesus" show at the New Museum.)

Maybe this pegs me as over the hill...but my favorite piece, hands down, was Lebanese artist Ziad Antar's short film "Wa". Starring two solemn, pajama-clad children singing along to a synthesizer's demo tune, they pierce past their own cuteness in their mono-syllabic shorthand for a baby's cry. This little gem was so simple, yet stuck with me throughout the sensory overload of the rest of the show, and beyond. You can view it at the moving image site (requires free registration and login, but it's worth it).



Elizabeth King: "The Sizes of Things in the Mind's Eye"

An exciting exhibition opens tonight at Brown University's David Winton Bell Gallery. Artist Elizabeth King pushes the boundaries of the mechanics and emotion of human movement through her evocative, cross-media works.

In a groundbreaking mid-career survey, "The Sizes of Things in the Mind's Eye" represents a wide selection of the artist's meticulous automaton sculptures and their accompanying film studies. King's otherworldly human portraits in fine porcelain, glass and wood bridge the time-honored practice of sculpture with the science of human movement and the illusion of film.

Elizabeth King, Animation Study: Pose 7, 1997-2005, Chromogenic prints on Kodak Endura paper, 20 x 20 in.  Collection of the artist.

Image: Elizabeth King, "Animation Study: Pose 7", 1997-2005, Chromogenic prints on Kodak Endura paper, 20 x 20 in. Collection of the artist.

To preview tonight's opening reception, Elizabeth King will give a free lecture at 5:30pm today in the List Art Center Auditorium.

"The Sizes of Things in the Mind's Eye" is on view from November 7th through December 21st, 2008 at Brown University's David Winton Bell Gallery. You can read my full review of the exhibition in the November/December issue of artscope magazine.

The David Winton Bell Gallery is located on the first floor of Brown University's List Art Center: 64 College Street, Providence, RI 02906.

REVIEW: "A Varied Terrain" Launches New Student Galleries at RISD

A key advantage offered by RISD's new Chace Center is the addition of two gallery spaces: The Gelman Student Gallery and Dryfoos Student Media Gallery, both dedicated to student-run programming. The Gelman Gallery's inaugural show, "A Varied Terrain", is on view through this Friday, October 5th.

Curated by students Mayen Alcantara, Gabriela Salazar and Martin Smick, the group show addresses "critical issues regarding the structure and system of our environments", with 12 participating artists presenting works created from the point of view of artist, naturalist, architect and engineer.

It is a fitting theme for inaugurating this portion of the Chace Center, long anticipated as a main feature to bridge the RISD campus with the main thoroughfair of North Main Street at Providence's Market Square.

In media ranging from video to installation to trompe-l'oeil, the participating artists delve into their own and their subjects' relationships with the environment.

"Hang 'Em Up Roadie" an installation by Thomas Morrill (RISD BFA Painting 2008)

Above: "Hang 'Em Up Roadie" by Thomas Morrill - mixed-media installation with radio transmitter

I first encountered "Hang ‘Em Up Roadie", an installation by painter Thomas Morrill (BFA, 2008). Far from painting, this invented office-cum-pirate-radio-station explores systems of information gathering and classification; boasting a collection of cassette tape recordings of lectures, movies, animals, music, sporting events and conversations, shelved according to a personal taxonomy of geographic place. The person behind the collection is implied by a handmade radio transmitter (tuned to 104.7FM if you happen to be within 575 feet), and the ubiquitous, mostly consumed Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.

Located nearby, a sinisterly low, boxed plywood corridor by Rui Sasaki (MFA candidate, glass) convinced me to overcome my claustophobia by entering and closing the door shut behind me. Other than triggering a motion-sensor bare lightbulb, and causing myself dusty knees and a backache, I elicited no further response from the installation, titled "My Basement". Perhaps I failed to trigger something more gratifying...there were speakers inside.

"Landscape XI", a screenprinted assemblage by Luke O'Sullivan (RISD MFA candidate, printmaking)

Above: "Landscape XI" by Luke O'Sullivan - screenprinted wood and mixed-media

Stretching back out to my full height (1,568 mm!), I took the time to admire an assemblage by Luke O'Sullivan (MFA candidate, printmaking). Like a multi-colored backdrop for a Terry Gilliam animation, and referencing industrial relics like used letterpress blocks, his "Landscape XI" is a model city comprised of a multitude of individually cut and screenprinted "buildings", perched on an exaggerated platform of construction deitritus. Impeccable craftsmanship and a fine eye for materials and scale serves this work well. "Landscape XI"'s proximity to the gallery's single window onto the architecture of downcity Providence further enhanced the work's capacity for self-reflection.

"Memory Floor Plan", an inkjet print by Leslie Kwok (RISD MFA Graphic Design 2008)

Above: "Memory Floor Plan" by Leslie Kwok - inkjet print

On my way out, I was pleased to encounter the familiar work of MFA recipient (Graphic Design, 2008) Leslie Kwok, whose work I reviewed in the graduate thesis show this past May. Kwok explores interpersonal relationships through graphical conventions. Her work is intelligent, accessible and balanced - never overdone or trite in design or execution. For this show she presents an inkjet print titled "Memory Floor Plan". Diagramatically representing each bedroom she has occupied since birth, the floor plan reconstructs an autobiographical, yet imaginary 16-room "house", with each doorway symbol leading into one or more adjacent rooms.

I exited, pondering whether these implied doors should eventually lead to a stairway, or, if they are better represented opening [like Chace Center itself] onto the waiting outside world.

The Chace Center is located at 20 North Main Street, Providence 02903

What to see...what to see...

It's the third Thursday of the month, which means Gallery Night for those of you in or around the Providence area. The calendar page's turn to September generally initiates the re-opening (or reinvigoration) of galleries and educational institutions, so it's a great time to explore the city's art scene. Step outside and into the fresh, early evening air and check out the premiere shows of a new season.

Ken Takashi Horii "Of Mind And Matter" - plywood, sumi ink, ink, paper

Above: "Of Mind and Matter" by Ken Takashi Horii - on view at the Chazan Gallery at Wheeler.

Opening tonight at the Chazan Gallery at Wheeler: "Of Mind and Matter" by sculptor and RISD professor Ken Takashi Horii. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken for the current issue of Artscope Magazine and can wholeheartedly recommend this exhibit, which features Horii's sculptural and ink-drawing investigations into perceptions of allusion and illusion. Referencing Western Rorschach ink-blot tests embedded and alongside the diagrammatic structures of Tantric Buddhism, this show is bound to open many doors for observation and conversation.

Anthony Tomaselli: "Waterfire: Superman Building"

Above: "Waterfire: Superman Building" by Anthony Tomaselli - on view at Gallery Z

Over on the expanding gallery roster of Federal Hill, the "Rhode Island Italian Artists" exhibit is showing at Gallery Z, featuring local landscapes by Anthony Tomaselli alongside other small works in painting by Stephanie Marzella, photography by Angelo Marinosci and Salvatore Mancini, and renowned sculptor and painter Angelo Rosati. Tip: This tax-free zone is a great stop for local art enthusiasts and collectors.

"White Tara" (detail) - Kancha Lama

Above: "White Tara Mandala" (detail) - Kancha Lama, on view at the Providence College Robert and Mary Anne Reilly Gallery.

School is definitely back in session, and Providence College's art galleries are hopping once again. At the Hunt-Cavanaugh Gallery, check out "Some Measure - Martha Groome Paintings" (on view through October 16th). Nearby at the Reilly Gallery, visit tonight's sneak preview opening of "Tribute To Tibet", featuring Tibetan "thangka" paintings and other artifacts from area collections. As part of this exhibit, two monks from the Dalai Lama’s Namgyal Monastery (in Ithaca, New York), will create a Sand Mandala in the Gallery between September 21st -27th. On the afternoon of September 27th the monks will dismantle the Mandala, with the remnants to be ritually poured into the river by WaterPlace Park during that Saturday evening's WaterFire event.

REVIEW: Quintessential at Firehouse No. 13

While many think of Firehouse No. 13 as a hot spot for local performance and music events, it is important to know that the welcoming ground-level space hosts gallery shows as a backdrop to its ever changing roster of sound and dialogue.

Like other alternative arts spaces (I’m thinking back to some hairy events at the Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge) this can pose unique challenges to both artist and audience, as the ebb and flow of humans interact with each other, the elements (beverages, PA) and the artwork.

With this in mind, I was lucky to drop in on the soft opening of Quintessential, selected works by Nathanial Allen, Keith Borges, Tennyson LaCasio and Joshua Nierodzinski, just hours before the remnants of tropical storm Hannah soaked the steamy streets.

In “quintessential” FH 13 style, a backdrop of live music (by Borges’ duo 12lb. Beard) accompanied the artwork, and the artists were present in full opening dress. For me, a shocker! I’ve been getting used to the slack-asualness of Providence, i.e. the apparent acceptability of wearing pajama pants out on the town.

Beyond my shock of encountering eveningwear at an alternative space art opening, I can recommend a view of this show to anyone interested in emerging regional upstarts. The work, a fair mix of painting and small sculpture by South Coast/New Bedford-based artists, provides a balanced and thoughtful counterpoint to some of the more materially effusive and exuberant installation/performance-based work often seen from the younger set.

Keith Borges: "Grande double mocha latte with 18 sugars", Mixed-media

Above: "Grande double mocha latte with 18 sugars" (installation detail) by Keith Borges

While easy to overlook given the size of the space, the specimen-like mixed-media sculptures of Keith Borges are worth seeking out. By placing narrative combinations of formally simple, manmade and organic materials on narrow display pedestals, Borges forces the viewer to examine the reliquary and transient nature of objects. I particularly liked the scale of "Mutilation, Amputation, Humiliation", although the temptingly open tray of sugar-bedded, rusted belt-buckles bafflingly titled "Grande double mocha latte with 18 sugars" is the more daring of the set.

Nathaniel Allen: "Three Over Three", Mixed-media

Above: "Three over three" by Nathanial Allen

Fellow small-scale sculptor Nathanial Allen’s work is harder to sort out. Squarely arrayed on and across FH13's expansive plank floor, the barely knee-high works are challenging to confront from a full-sized human's (okay, ¾ size in my case) perspective. Simply constructed, and evocative of game board pieces, his "Three over three" and "Four blocks and a box" could serve as stronger studies for a larger sculptural idea. I would like to see Allen’s work in expanded form, or at least displayed on their own in a “white box” space more friendly to sculptural work of this challenging scale.

Studio neighbors Joshua Nierodzinski and Tennyson LaCasio chose to alternate their oil paintings across the long display wall. Certain pairings fare better than others, but the complimentary sizes and palates of the two painters provide a friendly platform with which to point out the formal differences in their work.

Tennyson LaCasio: "Ethereal Accension", Oil on canvas over board

Above: "Ethereal Accension" by Tennyson LaCasio

LaCasio’s canvases are ethereal, expressionistic and wildly atmospheric. My favorite piece in his set, “Ethereal Accension”, brings to mind Renaissance ceiling frescos in varying states of decay and conservation. While not easily visible on the depicted photo, a gestural pair of marks that could represent aircraft, birds, or perhaps the floating ghosts caused by retinal effects recede into a cloud and dust palate. I should point out that LaCasio is not afraid to confront challenging, and at times caustic color palates in the same, light-filled ethereal style.

Joshua Nierodzinski: "Little Portuguese Bend", Oil and acrylic on panel

Above: "Little Portuguese Bend" by Joshua Nierodzinksi

Nierodzinksi takes a similar, cerulean and dust palate to a journalistic, grid/ledger destination in his painting titled “April May March”. In this case, the light appears to be reflecting off of an object instead of emanating from an atmosphere. Again, counterpoint is a strength of this show. In this and “Little Portuguese Bend”, the other of his stronger, non-representational work, there is a sense of buildup and decay, with stabilizing bands of color supporting abstraction that hovers on the edge of becoming.

Quintessential officially opens at Firehouse No. 13 this Friday, September 12th, with musical hosts: Cardboard Fort, 12lb. Beard and friends providing live entertainment from 6pm-1am.

Firehouse No. 13: 41 Central St. Providence, RI 02907.

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