HORROR SHOW A portion of "Night and Day."
Mickey Zacchilli and Natalja Kent's installation "Night for Day" at AS220's Project Space (93 Mathewson Street, Providence, through October 30) is like a manic, feral, black-and-white, punk, strobe light, spook house — just in time for Halloween.
CREATURE FEATURE Detail from Mickey Zacchilli's Devour.
The Providence artists fill the walls of the gallery's front room with ink drawings and photocopies of bloody punched faces, skulls, slinky ladies, eyeballs, a demon on a sleeping woman, snakes, and an Alien
head. Everything vibrates with wiggly zebra stripes and snakeskin patterns. You then pass through curtains into a darkened second room featuring flashing lights and giant odd cartoon heads on flat sheets of wood. Behind one more set of curtains is a little alcove where you can sit and watch a jittery, pixely animation featuring a snake head, pulsing patterns, squiggly lines, pizza-head and dog-head characters, and flashing text: "No," "Dog," "Love," "Violence," "Nobody's baby," "I like you." On her blog, Zacchilli describes it as "crappy digital camera stop motion . . . [with] ridiculous music to go along with it." Which pretty much captures its punk attitude, nonchalant wit, and purposely half-assed zone-out style. Black-and-white balloons are strewn across the floor like you've arrived after the party just ended.
Zacchilli is part of the feminist art collective workshop Dirt Palace in Olneyville, which turns 10 this year, and Kent was formerly affiliated with the slace. A number of the women of the Palace in its early days — Xander Marro, Pippi Zornoza (who both still make stuff there), Jo Dery, Erin Rosenthal, and Jungil Hong — favored an aesthetic of exquisite, intricate (girly? ) patterns with goth touches. Zacchilli and Kent's art here is rascally girl goth punk Op art.
Goth is the through line. One of the ways artists undercut gender stereotypes in the late '90s and early '00s was to play against type. Guy artists went soft and cute, while women turned prickly and dark. Goth was the sour that undercut the sweet and kept you off balance. But the switch from intricate patterns to deliciously messy punk free-for-all designs might be a function of age — Zacchilli and Kent are children of the '80s, while the earlier Palace denizens were born in the '70s.
Add them up and all these women equal the most prominent art gang in Providence these days. "The women of the Dirt Palace, like those of the Riot Grrrl movement, muster irrationality and emotion to communicate their resistance, but, unlike their predecessors, their assertions derive strength from visionary daydreams and tales of fancy," states the Museum of Modern Art's brand new tome, Modern Women.
Their inclusion in this massive history book is official-dom's mark of approval. Or as Zacchilli blogs: "DONT FORGET, me and natalja were both featured in the MODERN WOMEN book the MoMA put out, so everything we do is VERY IMPORTANT. STAY COOL."
Meanwhile, Abigail Test of North Scituate and David Planka of Providence share AS220's Main Gallery (115 Empire Street, through October 30). Test draws pastel portraits of seated friends. She draws Jacklyn with a pink John Deere T-shirt, blue shorts, blue fingernails, and long brown hair. The woman leans back on her seat, next to a vase of tulips, and offers a bored stare. Test's draftsmanship is flatfooted, which feels by turns inferior or endearingly, awkwardly human in way that for some might recall Alice Neel.