Brian Chippendale and Jungil Hong’s dazzling new work

A sense of wonder
By GREG COOK  |  November 29, 2011

MANIC Chippendale's The High Castle.
Brian Chippendale and Jungil Hong were at the center of the gang of artists who pioneered the rascally psychedelic art that boiled out of Providence's screenprinting/postering/comic book/puppet show/wrestlemania/noise rock underground in the late 1990s and early 2000s. So any show by the couple is an event. Their vivid exhibit "In Habitat" at Buonaccorsi + Agniel (1 Sims Avenue, Providence, through December 23) shows how their styles have evolved — his increasingly abstract, hers more minimal — as they've entered their late 30s.

Chippendale continues to make eye-poppingly manic collages out of his own cut-up drawings and screenprints. The High Castle depicts a rotting shack atop a melting hill featuring a cat-man sitting on a drum, decayed fences, a mushroom, jack-o-lanterns, and Mad magazine's Alfred E. Newman. A radioactive rainbow fills the spray-painted sky. In Red Sky At Morning, a dog- and demon-faced guy stands in a boat as fish leap down a stream. A cat-man runs down a green camouflage shore under an exploding yellow, pink, and orange sky.

The curious, feral cartoon characters that scampered around Chippendale's earlier work are still on the loose, but everything has become more cut up and exploded and subsumed into a hallucinatory heap of fluorescent pop culture imagery. Sometimes the characters almost completely disintegrate, leaving patterns of gumdrop clouds or evoking a billboard layered with the weathered remains of torn-away posters. But at times they have the vibe of his 800-page graphic novel If 'n Oof (2010), in which a lovable duo of bumpkins made a peripatetic adventure through a mutating, fallen world that felt like a series of anxiety dreams.

Hong's new gouache paintings and screenprints depict hard-edged geometric spaces of mysterious stairways, trapdoors, and checkerboard floors. In Hair grows that which is dead, pink tree trunks sprout along a coast or from a black void, and a pair of long red stairways descend next to a grid of green boxes. 49 Days Later In the Next Dimension offers two large panels in matching, vibrating screenprinted diamond patterns. Just off-center of each panel is a "window" painted in gouache. One reveals trees standing on a checkerboard floating in a starry night sky; the other shows a red forest on a yellow landscape that on second glance resembles an eyeball.

MYSTERIOUS SPACES Hong's Petrified Forest.
Hong's earlier work featured birds, wolves, and baby dolls haunting surreal op-art landscapes. Now she's channeling traditional Asian screen painting, M.C. Escher, Giorgio de Chirico, Remedios Varo, and psychedelic black-light posters. She leaves us wandering alone in abandon-ed neon midnight plazas.

Almost a decade after members of Providence's Fort Thunder gang (which Chippendale co-founded in 1995) made a splash at the 2002 Whitney Biennial and then their factory building was demolished to make way for a shopping plaza, Jim Drain, the Paper Rad collective, and Lightning Bolt (Chippendale's noise rock duo with Brian Gibson) are the most prominent names to emerge from that scene. Dirt Palace (with which Hong was affiliated for a time) was featured in the Museum of Modern Art's 2010 historical tome Modern Women and now and again Providence posters pop up in music art books. But the — let's call it — Providence Wunderground style remains mainly a cult taste. The Buonaccorsi + Agniel show reminds us that the artists are still working away, many of them making some of the best art being made today.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Museums, Brian Chippendale, Providence,  More more >
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