DISSOLVING MEMORIES Talbot's Eighties and nineties.
Over the past decade, Providence art has been known for its visionary printmaking and graphics, crafty constructions, and funhouse installations, but local painting has tended to operate out of the limelight. It probably hasn't helped that the painting coming out of RISD's MFA program over this span has been lackluster. This is not to say that there aren't prominent painters here (Ruth Dealy, Lloyd Martin, to name two), but they tend to be, um, artists of a certain age.
So the 10-artist roundup "Among the Breakage: New Paintings from Providence" at Brown University's Bell Gallery (64 College Street, Providence, through July 10) offers a chance to see what local painters have been up to. The exhibit is organized by AS220 gallery director (and abstract painter) Neal Walsh and departing Bell curator Maya Allison, who are as tuned in to what's going on here as anyone.
DREAMY Shinn's Fati.
Since the height of Abstract Expressionism in the '50s, a sort of industry rule of thumb for painting (and art in general) is that bigger is better. Lisa Perez takes the opposite approach, making small, precisely orchestrated mod abstractions. Intuit is a lopsided gray rectangle of wood with a hole cut out revealing a black panel beneath. Intuit projects a bit off from the wall, which glows pink-orange in a halo around the painting. The magic, which she repeats in several works, seems to be that the wall is reflecting bright colors hidden on the back of the painting. Her art is filled with such subtle but acute color gestures that make her paintings hum.
Shawn Gilheeney, who organized the pop-up group painting show "We are going to make some big decisions in our little world" on Sims Avenue this spring, turns an entire wall of the gallery into a black and white mural titled Eliminate All Blemishes. He activates the surface by imperfectly wheat-pasting parts with paper, like old advertising posters that have been whitewashed. Then with black ink, he draws a tree, an old refrigerator, a cloud, and a crumbling wall that come hesitatingly into focus among ink drips and globs of white joint compound. Gilheeney's stand-alone paintings have toggled between abstraction and images of ruined buildings that he has fashioned from paint scraped atop carved and burned surfaces. The imagery here doesn't quite come together, but while his previous work could feel like illustrations about architectural ruins, here by working directly on a wall he begins to embody the subject in his art.
SPECIFIC BUT MYSTERIOUS SHAPE Duket's Big Blue.
Sam Duket fashions sculptures that look like shiny emerald green or blue chrome tubes half-embedded in the gallery walls. Their allure comes their Minimalist simplicity, their fetish finish, their specific but mysterious shapes. His Buoy feels like the Pop flip side of this, with its title and catchy colors — bands of black, white, and red — amusingly echoing a lobster float. Ara Peterson, who often makes textured reliefs and sculptures of eye-popping rainbow patterns, here gangs together gray strips of wavy-edged wood that shift tone depending on the angle you're looking from, a bit like how breezes shift the way light falls on a prairie field.