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Preview: Providence Phoenix - Art

Providence Phoenix - Art





 



View masters

January 13 - 19, 2005

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View masters
An ‘odd collection’ at the Warwick Art Museum

"2006 Omnium Gatherum," the photography show at the Warwick Art Museum (through February 4), is an eclectic collection of work by 12 Rhode Islanders. Such a mixed bag fits the title of the exhibition, which is century-old side-show slang for "an odd collection."

On display are images surreal to celebratory, abstract to observational. Curated by the Museum’s outgoing director, Damon A. Campagna, the exhibit is an interesting group portrait of contemporary imagination.

Imaginative technique as well as subject matter is on display. Regan Stacey Scheiber creates captivating visual metaphors by equating undergarments and other delicate articles of clothing with particular women. These are cyanotype photograms, made by exposing the sheer cloth on photosensitive paper to light for a long period. They are white on blue, like blueprints, and as luminous as x-rays. "Amelia — Strong, Brave, and Delicate, Her Finesse Defined Her," for example, looks to be an infant’s lacy baptismal cap, and the com




Illuminating from within

November 4 - 10, 2005

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Illuminating from within
The RISD Museum’s ‘Edgar Degas: Six Friends at Dieppe’

Art always exists within a context, despite postmodernist attempts to set it free. Edgar Degas: Six Friends at Dieppe, the current major exhibition at Rhode Island School of Design Museum (through January 15), does a comprehensive job of accomplishing something we could use more of: illuminating a dazzling period in art from within.

The centerpiece is the commanding pastel — nearly four feet tall — Six Friends at Dieppe, which received its title after being purchased for the RISD Museum in 1931. Arrayed are more than 70 items from around the time it was drawn in 1885, including photographs, books, and letters. On display are all the works by Degas that the museum owns — paintings, drawings, and sculptures.

Complementing the show are two more exhibits from the period, one on drawings by French artists and another on the influence of Japanese woodblock prints (see accompanying box).

Degas was central to Impressionism and one of the organizers of the 1874 salon d




Home is where . . .

December 16 - 22, 2005

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Home is where . . .
"Ourchitecture" at the Newport Art Museum

Home may be where the hearth is, but that’s only one of infinite possibilities. Sculptor Elizabeth Keithline has two exhibitions at the Newport Art Museum (through January 6) that explore what else a house can signify, and she has recruited dozens of other artists to join the effort.

Keithline’s "The Lost House Project" is a two-story-tall construction that fills the NAM’s Ilgenfritz Gallery. "Ourchitecture" is a collaboration with 43 other artists and architects.

The centerpiece of the first show is a monumental installation in the large, high-ceiling gallery. Under light dim but strong enough to cast interesting shadows on the walls, rectangular wire boxes are suspended from the ceiling, roughly suggesting walls and a slanted roof. To the right, suspended in a row are three doors, with empty spaces where windows would be; the doorknobs or latches are immobilized in proper position like metal insects caught in spider webs.

The effect is eerie, like wandering around in the rem




Singularities

December 9 - 15, 2005

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Singularities
A unique array at the Space at Alice

Holiday art shows that have a cap on prices make a lot of sense for everyone. People are in an appreciative and generous mood at this time of year — what better to share than an art work that especially appeals to you? As for the artists, an added venue is worth a discount or two.

The third annual It’s Not So Big, It’s Not So Pricey show at the Space at Alice (through January 1) is a wide-ranging presentation of up to three works by 28 painters, sculptors, photographers, ceramicists, and jewelry-makers. No items are more than $300. (And don’t forget the annual Little Pictures Show at the Providence Art Club through December 23, with everything $225 and under.)

The offerings at Alice are an imaginative and diverse collection. Representational paintings are what many people think of when they think "art show," but only one such artist provides that here. What Todd Ingham’s "Slater Park Festival" and "Wickenden Steeple" represent, however, is the visual welter of walking amon




Facets of brilliance

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Facets of brilliance
Bellini at the Gardner, Cubism at the MFA

The current show in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s special-exhibition room, " Bellini and the East, " is another flickering jewel in the Gardner’s crown. The Bellini in question is not even the relatively famous Giovanni — who painted the Madonna of the Meadow and Sacred Allegory and The Feast of the Gods before being eclipsed, at least in the annals of art history, by Giorgione and Titian — but his older brother Gentile, who in his time (1430–1507) was most noted for an enterprise, the narrative frescoes in the great hall of the Doge’s Palace, that a great fire eradicated in 1577. It was Gentile who in 1479, at the conclusion of a peace between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, sailed to Istanbul in response to Sultan Mehmed II’s request for a Venetian painter. There he executed the portrait of Mehmed II that resides in the National Gallery in London and now anchors the Gardner show.

Just what else Gentile did during his 16 months in Istanbul is hard to confirm,




Cannibals and castaways

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Cannibals and castaways
Dana Schutz and Oliver Herring at the Rose, ‘Modern Masters’ at the MFA

Dana Schutz flirts with the ugly, considers our condition, pictures the unimaginable, and in general uncovers what some might prefer left under a rock in her brushy paintings of Jeffrey Dahmer–like cleaver-wielding Amazons, blindfolded troubadours in business suits, and other less-easy-to-identify folks and scenes. At LFL Gallery in New York in 2002, in her first solo exhibition, "Frank from Observation," she showed a group of 12 paintings about a fictional character, Frank, whom she imagined as being the last man on earth — and whom she coyly described in the show’s press release as being painted "from observation." In those works, we see imaginative imagery that appears to arise out of the union between fierce brushstrokes and color so visceral it takes on a life of its own: a bright orange Frank nude in the water; a pinker Frank reclining on the beach; a dark, seriously post–Van Gogh Frank contemplating stars at night. Schutz continues to paint up an impressive storm, and her work comes to Brandeis’s Ro




Gem stones

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Gem stones
Earth into air, fire into rock in ‘Contemporary Clay’

Sometimes crusty and uneven as a horned toad’s skin, sometimes squat as a toadstool, sometimes misshapen and irregular as potholes on a city street, the MFA’s "Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century" is nevertheless pervaded by an air of monumental dignity. Commingled with the craggy vases and the platters that resemble slabs of roughly painted rock are their opposites: porcelain boxes so delicate and refined, they seem fit to hold only vapor; nesting bowls that begin as elegant troughs and then reduce in size to tea bowls, the smallest being no bigger than a fruit fly. Between those extremes of apparently random, found, natural forms and the meticulously hand-hewn is where most of the ceramic artists in "Contemporary Clay" weigh in. No matter what its style, each work is marked by a reverence for tradition and artistry that also allows for idiosyncratic expression.

A case in point is Kaneshige Kôsuke, the third son of a National Living Treasure of Japan, Kaneshige Toyo (also




The right profile

January 6 - 12, 2006

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The right profile
African-Americans in Andover, nudes in Winchester, sunglasses and cellphones in Essex

Contemporary African-American artists have taken on issues of race and American identity in a wealth of ways, from Kara Walker’s provocative silhouette narratives to Fred Wilson’s discomforting black "collectibles" to William Pope L’s agonizing acts of crawling. A new exhibition at the Addison Gallery of American Art adds depth to our understanding of the establishment and portrayal of racial identity in American history. Curated by art historian Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw, "Portraits of a People: Picturing African Americans in the 19th Century" opens on January 14 with more than 70 portraits made of and by African-Americans from the days of the American Revolution through the Civil War and into the Gilded Age. The works include an early-19th-century silhouette labeled Moses Williams, Cutter of Profiles that’s attributed to artist Raphaelle Peale, son of famed American portrait painter, scientist, and museum proprietor Charles Willson Peale. Moses Williams grew up as the elder Peale’s slave, and h




Role model

December 16 - 22, 2005

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Role model
Barbie sets the female standard at Montserrat College of Art

The other day, an artist friend was telling me about when she was in first grade and her older sister "opened this pink suitcase of mine and out rolled Barbie and Ken, naked, in this love-locked embrace." My pal had imagined the satiny suitcase interior as a romantic hotel where the couple could go to do whatever you do when you’re young and plastic and in love. But she was mortified to see her matchmaking so rudely exposed. And worse — they were her older sister’s dolls.

This came up because we were on our way back from seeing the smart and funny and somewhat frustrating show "Plastic Princess: Barbie As Art," which has been organized by Leonie Bradbury and will be up at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly until February 4. My friend’s memory was stirred by Framingham artist Gwendolyn Holbrow’s sculpture Keep It Clean, which featured Barbie and Ken naked in the shower (a real fountain) in a love-locked embrace. Before long, we were talking about the whole Barbie body-type, female-sexuality,




Altared states

December 9 - 15, 2005

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Altared states
‘Icons + Altars’ at the New Art Center; 18th-century French art at the Fogg

Religious architecture is often monumental, with towering spires, vaulted ceilings, and massive stained-glass panels that generate awe and humility. But the sacred is also found in the small and the unassuming — in shrines and altars, in fetishistic objects, and in symbolic imagery. For the past 12 years, the New Art Center in Newton, a secular institution whose exhibition space is situated in a beautiful late-19th-century church, has invited a variety of artists to create small icons or altars, leaving the interpretation of those terms entirely up to the artist. The resulting annual "Icons + Altars" brings some real spirit to Holiday Spirit — for those of all faiths, and for ye of not much faith.

This year’s "Icons + Altars" includes work by 97 regional artists including moving and colorful sculptural works by Janine Al-Bayati and Lorey Bonante, a profound-yet-smile-producing wallpiece in wood by Todd McKie, a haunting tiny oil painting by Gail Boyajian, and a beguiling drawing of a soulful c




Visible music

December 9 - 15, 2005

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Visible music
Jazz comes to the canvas in the George and Joyce Wein collection

It’s no special wonder that the art collection of George and Joyce Wein, the founders of the Newport Jazz Festival, would be as rich in jazz motifs and as evocative of the history of 20th-century African-American painting as "Syncopated Rhythms," the rewarding and intelligently documented show at the Boston University Art Gallery.

What is a wonder is how many of the artists were themselves entrenched in jazz culture. The influence of jazz finds its most visible expression in subject matter: Oliver Johnson’s stunning 1977 portrait of Louis Armstrong; Norman Lewis’s 1943 oil Harlem Jazz Jamboree; Romare Beardon’s riveting 1981 collage Uptown Sunday Night Session.

More significant is the influence of jazz on the artists’ lives and, beyond that, on the styles their work embodied. Beardon wrote song lyrics and belonged to the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. Miles Davis took up painting in the 1980s after a 40-year career as one of the seminal musicians in he his




Feeling right at home?

December 2 - 8, 2005

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Feeling right at home?
"Not Just a House" at GASP, ‘Gentile Bellini’ at the Gardner, the Wilson Sisters at Harvard

Our homes protect us from the elements, but they also help hide our doings — mundane and otherwise — from others. They are one of the first things we learn to draw, after stick people, and the depth and breadth of their archetypal significance cannot be underestimated, as questions of what goes on behind closed doors, what’s hiding under the bed, and what kind of skeletons might be in the closet hint at the fear and uneasiness that co-occupy the realm of the safe and sound. Curated by artist Samantha Fields and opening at GASP (Gallery Artists Studio Projects) December 9, "Not Just a Home" examines the interior spaces of the home. Artist Juniper Perlis unleashes the dark side of the family unit in Father Photographs, a work that narrates her search for her missing father. Lynda Banzi looks at how we imprint on our domestic objects, and how our homes, and our home appliances, come to mirror ourselves, Charlie Coolidge deconstructs and reconstructs objects in the home to zero in on issues of do




Mutations on a theme

December 2 - 8, 2005

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Mutations on a theme
The Drawing Show gets the willies

Now old enough to fight the war on terror were it a person, the annual Drawing Show at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Mills Gallery approaches its second decade by reinventing itself for its own form of combat. Traditionally a mega affair with scores of artists competing for precious space, it’s pared down and beefed up. This year’s exhibit, culled from nearly 300 petitioners, has scaled back to a modest 14 — or 16, since four of the participants work together in pairs. With a few exceptions, like Necee Regis’s postage stamp-sized airplanes and Kirsten Rae Simonsen’s drawings of girls and birds, the participants weigh in with a single very large work. What’s more, each artist draws directly on the walls (or floors or columns), so it’s work that won’t last.

Very often the appeal of drawing, as opposed to oil painting, is the same as that of a sculptor’s maquettes or a movie director’s outtakes: you get to see how something more permanent and finished gets planned for and made. We’re witness to the ar