The first painting in Providence artist Buck Hastings's series Vibes & Stuff (the title comes from a song by A Tribe Called Quest) at AS220's main gallery (115 Empire Street, Providence, through March 24) features quick, flat brushstrokes that give a curious paint-by-number feel to what appears to be an abstracted shrub. Here and in the large abstract paintings he exhibited last year of quick, doodley dashes and squiggles that evoked camouflage and forests, he uses deft, offhand marks to suggest a distillation of nature.
ABSTRACTED SHRUB? Hastings’s Vibes & Stuff #2.
Vibes & Stuff #2 is a static-like field of orange and green hieroglyphics. But what's new in subsequent paintings is a monoprinting technique in which he pushes paint around on a glass and then smooshes it against sheets of aluminum or paper or stretched linen. Number 10 features yellow and black blobs pressed onto the linen and beginning to bleed into each other. Atop Hastings has painted angled bars of red so deep it almost looks brown.
Hastings seems to be seeking a balance between the blob "accidents" and controlled passages. His efforts to let go of control are intriguing, but it can have the artlessness of paint sloshed across a palette — for good and for ill. Visually I'm not sure about this stuff, but the surefootedness of Hastings's past work makes me willing to follow him.
Hastings's work is part of a bunch of abstract painting happening in Providence that has been showcased in exhibits like the pop-up show "We're going to make some big decisions in our little world" last April and "Among the Breakage" at Brown University's Bell Gallery last summer. One strand that runs through local abstraction is echoes of urban decay, but abstraction is such a broad territory that it's difficult to pull out commonalities.
MIDCENTURY MOD An image from Henderson’s Signal.
At AS220's Project Space (93 Mathewson Street), Astrid of Greenville offers drawings of swirling red, blue, and black likes in a Jackson Pollock-ish style, but in compositions so busy that they lack tension or urgency. In the reading room, AS220 Community Printshop manager Lara Henderson presents a selection of small offset lithography books. In her letterpress book Signal, radio towers throw off signals of stars and scribbled spirals. It all has a catchy midcentury mod style. The towers disappear and the spirals and rings and spikey scribbed puffs float off across the pages.
"Acquire/Inquire: Realms Revealed" at Rhode Island College's Bannister Gallery (600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, through March 29) assembles a small group of veteran Massachusetts artists. Deborah Barlow paints handsome, crusty, glistening abstractions like Golasule, which resembles frosty white-blue ice. Others look like lichen or, in the case of Gola, a turquoise and milky white tropical tide pool.
While Barlow's paintings are sensual, Denyse Wilhelm allows visitors to actually touch her installation Klados, which resembles a mass of bright, pastel-hued viscera, bones or damp seaweed washed up on shore. Other people have made this sort of thing work (see Scott Lapham), but the kind of random forms and too many glittery colors turn into mush.