Review: The eye-popping vitality of 'Printed in Providence'

Lasting impressions
By GREG COOK  |  February 23, 2011

TRIPPY Fudge's Komposition X.
Over the past generation, numerous major artists have come out of Providence — and Rhode Island School of Design in particular — including Kara Walker, Tavares Strachan and, uh, James Franco. But a common thread among the most nationally prominent artists who have stayed here (the majority of whom also passed through RISD) has been the centrality of printmaking to their art, from Shepard Fairey (who has long since decamped to LA) to the Dirt Palace and Fort Thunder gangs.

Providence printmaking continues to be the primary representative of the city's art in books from Street World (2007) to Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today (2009) to the Museum of Modern Art's Modern Women (2010). It's a printmaking of posters and zines, do-it-yourself art often operating underground, on the streets, outside the usual institutions.

"Printed in Providence," an ambitious roundup of 21 artists at Cade Tompkins Projects (198 Hope Street, Providence, through March 19) includes that stuff (plus a small selection of the mini-comics and zines sold at Ada Books), but guest curator Lois Harada, who graduated from RISD in 2010 and has worked at the AS220 Printshop, adopts a broader outlook, shifting the focus toward RISD and galleries. And she adds artists from Away, like William Anastasi of New York and Michael Krueger of Kansas City, who have done printing at RISD Editions, a project of RISD's MFA program which has grad students help master printers produce one or two projects for outside artists each year. Tompkins was involved in getting RISD Editions going in 2006.

ABUZZ Chippendale's Is This What You Need? #1.
Harada covers a wide range of styles and printmaking media, from Providence artist Lynne Harlow's spare, hard-edged abstract screenprint of gold and orange rectangles to Tayo Heuser of Providence's large, tasteful woodcut of knotted rope to Warren artist William Schaff's etching and aquatint of monstrous creatures to late RISD teacher Aaron Siskind's 1988 abstract photogravure (a sort of photo-engraving) of what seems to be lines of tar looping across pavement.

The highlight of the show is new work by Providence artist and Fort Thunder co-founder Brian Chippendale, who cuts his own screenprints up as fodder for collages that are so dense with various glued-on images that they can fall somewhere between abstraction and the overwhelming stuffness of a garbage dump. Is This What You Need? #1 (2010) depicts a smiling pig-tailed girl holding a battery and an Alfred E. Neuman/George W. Bush-type in a Captain Crunch hat holding a "Goucchi" cell phone while sitting upon a drum. The background buzzes with camouflage-like patterns of orange and red dots and green and blue squiggly lines. Scattered around the ground are a banana, caterpillar, lily, and paint jar. It feels like a catchy, futuristic punk Alice in Wonderland adventure.

Also on the psychedelic edge is New York artist Carl Fudge's RISD Editions-produced silkscreen Komposition X, Y, Z, which looks a kaleidoscoping wallpaper pattern of trippy, digital inkblots or perhaps sound wave diagrams. And check out Jungil Hong's silkscreen collages of disembodied hands, dark clouds, and gulls popping out of trap doors in boardwalks sitting atop waves or smoke.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , print, printmaking, Street World,  More more >
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