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.
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.
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.
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