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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.

"DORA ATWATER MILLIKIN: GEOMETRY OF PLACE" for Artscope Magazine (July/August 2008)

"DORA ATWATER MILLIKIN: GEOMETRY OF PLACE" for Artscope Magazine (July/August 2008)

At the Newport Art Museum
June 7 – August 10, 2008


By Meredith Cutler (for Artscope Magazine)

Aptly titled, Rhode Island painter Dora Atwater Millikin’s “Geometry of Place” is now on view at the historic campus of the Newport Art Museum. While the manicured surroundings echo a sentimentality of time and place ubiquitous to this oasis of beachside mansions, Millikin’s unconventional landscape oil paintings provide a neutral view, absent of the clichés you might expect to encounter there.

Scattered between the coastal cities of New Bedford and Newport, the artist notes objectively of her subject matter: “It’s southern New England; it’s my world. I’ve lived by this stuff all of my life.”

At first glance, the forms seem familiar enough: fishing trawlers, tugboats, sleepy seashore side-roads, sometimes punctuated by the bulk of a rusty truck or camping trailer. Look deeper, and Millikin’s unusual compositions will anchor you, allowing her more formal concerns to emerge as attachments to narrative dissolve.

“It is, first, a composition – a snapshot of everyday life”, Millikin states. “Subject matter is not the most important thing to me; it’s not meant to be spectacular, or fancy. I’m trying to create an abstraction, and I do this also through [the placement of] lights and darks.”

As infants, the delineation between light and dark is the first visual impulse we perceive. It’s this primal impression that these paintings draw upon, with varying levels of application and intensity. Certain elements enjoy a preferred role in these varied snapshots - namely: asphalt, telephone poles, and rigging. Where these are used to define the picture plane, the intention of the artist truly shines through.

 “There is so much rhythm and balance, I get so much out of it”, Millikin mused, when asked about her compositional attraction to these elements. “It’s meant to read like a song.”

In “Morning on Main”, a line of utility poles recedes off-frame, while anonymous bungalows cluster behind as a silent anchor. The sky is rendered in a series of buttercream sections, pinned like quilt squares between a network of intersecting telephone lines. The artist confides that in relation to the source location, are heading straight into the sea.

“But hopefully you would never know”, she laughed.

Working instinctually from her source sketches and photographs, if you were to take any one of the finished paintings to the original location, you would probably scratch your head and wonder, “What was she thinking?”

“Most of the actual painting is done in the studio, from no resource; no photograph… nothing. It is painted for the sake of the painting itself. I never work from someone else’s source”, she emphasized.

Unlike the conventional method of painting, in which a background is applied and the forms then laid on top, Millikin first draws the subject, or positive image, and then defines it with the negative image in thick strokes of oil paint. “For the sake of the composition I’m always adding or subtracting”, she explained.

A graduate of the Old Lyme Academy of Painting in Connecticut, Millikin’s rigorous, traditional training included a strong emphasis on life painting and the human form; which, interestingly, appears infrequently or largely simplified in her work. Only one painting, titled simply “Early Morning”, depicts a human figure in full frontal view, approaching almost through the large-scale picture plane.

It is important to note also that Millikin works from a primary palette, which consists strictly of red, yellow, blue and titanium white. All subsequent colors are mixed from this pure set, resulting in a harmony of color balance within her paintings. These subtleties of technique effectively imbue the work with a richness and accessibility altogether separate from the subject matter.

Weekend Roundup: First Beach, Then Art

As my Italy tan threatens to fade, there is nothing I look forward to more than a steamy, early August beach weekend here in Little Rhody. I'm firing up the flipflops and prepping the watermelon already!

Lest I lose all self respect while lathering on the 45 SPF and a dab of Jergens Natural Glow, let me recount the various other good things in the world of art and culture that await this weekend, just a stone's throw from the sandy shores of the Narragansett Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

All this weekend, at Fort Adams State Park: The Newport Folk Festival draws the indie crowd alongside the tried and true folkies, with low-key-cool acts like She & Him, Cat Power and Calexico sharing the stage with legends like Richie Havens.

Having made the journey to Newport, stay awhile and check out Saturday's Gallery Night, with free parking available at the Newport Art Museum.

"arrondissment" by Kevin Gilmore

As shown above, opening tonight at Jessica Hagen Fine Art + Design, new mixed-media paintings by Rhode Island native, Kevin Gilmore. Read my full review in this month's Artscope Magazine.

Just up the street at DeBlois Gallery, Street Art: In & Out opens tonight, with graffiti artists creating a site-specific work live in the gallery's front window.

Street Art: In & Out at DeBlois Gallery Newport

Heading back to Providence for the night, stop by Firehouse 13 for the opening of Straight Mixed Culture, a group show of Providence artists celebrating Providence culture "as it is". Word.

Straight Mixed Culture opens tonight at Firehouse 13

"KEVIN GILMORE: RECENT PAINTINGS" for Artscope Magazine (July/Aug 2008)

"KEVIN GILMORE: RECENT PAINTINGS" for Artscope Magazine (July/Aug 2008)

Kevin Gilmore: Recent Paintings

Jessica Hagen Fine Art + Design
Newport, Rhode Island
August 2 - September 7, 2008


by Meredith Cutler (for Artscope Magazine)

Article excerpt:

In his fourth solo show at Newport’s Jessica Hagen Fine Art + Design, emerging artist Kevin Gilmore returns to his former locale with a body of mixed-media paintings redolent of journeys, destinations and new digs in Brooklyn.

Originally from Rhode Island, Gilmore received his BFA from Rhode Island College in 1999, with a concentration in collage and painting. Looking west, he explored Jackson, Wyoming and Portland, Oregon, embedding himself in their art communities.

Eventually returning to his native state via Newport, he was discovered by gallery owner Jessica Hagen when he wandered as a cold call into Station 29 Gallery, for which she served as director prior to opening her own gallery in 2005. Hagen responded immediately to Gilmore’s work, agreeing to represent him exclusively to her well-heeled regional clientele, who gravitated to the unpretentious work of the young painter...


Image: Kevin Gilmore, "Arrondissment", 2008, oil on panel.

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