Rebecca Macri, Dan Talbot, and Betsey MacDonald at AS220

Contrasts and comparisons
By GREG COOK  |  November 15, 2011

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CHARMING APPLIQUÉ Macri’s Composters.

Some time back, Rebecca Macri embroidered a pillow with the rainbow bars of the old terrorism alert chart ("severe" to "low"). She embroidered another pillow with a nuclear mushroom cloud. She describes it on her website as "nuclear apocalypse meets comfy sofa." Her combination of serious social concern with devil-may-care wit plus traditional handcraft sticks in my mind. Think homeland security blankets.

This sensibility still runs through "Light Works," her new show at AS220 Project Space (93 Mathewson Street Providence, through November 26). MBTA (My Bosses, Total A-holes) is a cross-stitch of radiating, rainbow-striped diamonds (basically a traditional log cabin quilt pattern with hotter, psychedelic colors) with a lacy, pink diamond border. Composters is a charming mini-patchwork and appliqué quilt of mushrooms. Drop a Love Bomb is a small, folksy patchwork and embroidered quilt in various browns of a falling bomb trailing streamers embroidered with the title. It feels like she's bouncing around, fishing for new subjects, but the growing skill of her stitching holds you.

Perhaps there's a beginning of a theme in Enzo (work in progress), a cross-stitch in rainbow hues that looks like the pixilated sonogram silhouette of a baby; or Yar's Revenge, a cross-stitch of rainbow bars on a black field that puns a buzzing force field thing in the 1981 Atari video game of the title. Like the terrorism embroideries, which compared the hard facts versus soft cushions, these cross-stitches derive interest from their contrasts — machine-made images lovingly rendered by hand.

Also at Project Space are Dan Talbot's new paintings, which read like stream of consciousness composts of imagery. For example, Ocean State depicts a candle, a naked lady, a bottle of vegetable oil, maybe a couple jars of fluid. The recognizable images are turned on their sides or upside-down amidst more abstract passages, or images that are partly painted out or seem to be decomposing. Is that a jug? Is that a slice of cake?

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NEITHER NOR A detail from Talbot’s The carp swimming . . . .

New here is a pair of large mixed-media works on paper. The carp swimming up my back, the carp breathing down my neck looks like a bunch of ballpoint pen-and-ink doodles of a bearded man, breasts, heads, and so on ganged up, turned this way and that, and pasted together. On top, Talbot paints an acid green wash and black outlines. It's a fugue of automatic writing non-sequiturs ("About the author," "roof over my house"), vaguely biological cross-sections, and slacker abstraction.

There's something interesting here as you go back and forth between letting it wash over you and excavating his imagery, but the results often leave me cold. I think it's because Talbot's colors are often dulled, grayed out, and applied with deadpan brushstrokes. And his offhand jumbles of imagery, neither quite realist or quite abstracted, frustrates the part of me that wants things to resolve into either fish or fowl.Of course, that neither-nor-ness seems to be exactly what Talbot is after.

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FOSTERING OUTRAGE AND EMPATHY MacDonald’s Slaughtered Pig.

At AS220's Main Gallery (115 Empire Street), Betsey MacDonald pairs paintings of pretty horses, golden retrievers, and cute cows with gory scenes of gutted deer or a slaughtered cow dangling by a leg with its head dragging awkwardly on the floor.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Dan Talbot, Museums, AS220,  More more >
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