Exhibits worth buzzing about

Vivid visions
By GREG COOK  |  December 20, 2011

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GONZO FANTASY Corey Grayhorse’s Eskimo Sisters.

After a couple of shaky years, 2011 saw the local gallery scene blossom again. Cade Tompkins Projects, Craftland, Buonaccorsi+Agniel, and Candita Clayton Studio are buzzing. R.K. Projects is producing pop-up exhibits around town. Independent curators Erik Carlson and Erica Carpenter are organizing shows at the Museum of Natural History. And Brown University added an exhibition space at its new Granoff Center. Providence is always a dynamo of artistic production, and the following rundown of the best exhibits of 2011 demonstrates how this additional infrastructure and fresh visions share it with the rest of us.


• DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED

"Building Expectation: Past and Present Visions of Architectural Future," organized by grad student Nathaniel Robert Walker at Brown University's Bell Gallery, was rife with astonishing retro-futuristic designs of cars and metropolises and Blade Runner. But what was riveting about the treeless paradises of skyscrapers and machines that ran through this history of 20th-century utopian dreaming was how obviously it was a recipe for our cookie-cutter malls, suburbs, and global warming.


• DESIGNER GOODS

Arley-Rose Torsone's exhibit "Mixed Messages" at Craftland proposed a more humble, human, handmade tomorrow. Her "It's going to be O.K." poster, her carefully hand-lettered NSFW sign, and her alphabet spelled out in poop in a toilet were by turns hilarious, revolting, and heartwarming. Then she took to the streets in favor of marriage equality with her We Hate Gay People broadsides depicting Rhode Island politicians who voted against civil unions. The question: When is her brilliant graphic design going to blow up big nationally?


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KID STUFF Scott Alario’s Brave Elska.
PHOTO LAB

When Scott Alario's daughter was born, he began photographing her playing out a series of dreamy adventures that he and his wife staged. "Our Fable" at AS220 imagined new myths amidst the play and learning that bond parents and children. From Gertrude Kasebier to Harry Callahan to Joe Deal, photography may be Rhode Island's most celebrated art. Other notable contributions to the tradition this year were Jonathan Sharlin's Rhode Island College exhibit of quiet, sustained contemplation of his family's long-time vacation spot, and Philip J. Jameson's classic Modernist landscapes in "NetWorks" at Candita Clayton.


• FAR OUT

"New Mythologies" at Candita Clayton Studio plumbed the goth psychedelic pop art that surges through Providence. Including Corey Grayhorse's gonzo photo fantasies, Andrew Moon Bain's decorative dream worlds, and — best of all — Xander Marro's girly Victorian psychedelic puppet dioramas.


• FIT TO PRINT

From psychedelia to imitation old masters, "Printed in Providence" at Cade Tompkins Projects was a small but wide-ranging investigation (including Will Schaff, Aaron Siskind, Dan Wood, and Andrew Stein Raftery) into printmaking as the beating heart of the Providence art scene.


• DRINKING BINGE

Prohibition's decade-long underground drinking binge was the starting point to reexamine the 20th century in "Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980" at the RISD Museum. Curators Joanne Dolan Ingersoll and Kate Irvin and assistant Laurie Brewer assembled ravishing sequined flapper dresses, streamlined cocktail shakers, Hawaiian shirts, and disco gowns for a fresh view of how the era was shaped by mixing — drinks, genders, races.


• BANNER DAY

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