Beyond skin deep

By GREG COOK  |  July 9, 2013

EVALUATING VALUE A row of dominoes in Adams's "Breaking Even."

At Brown University’s Granoff Center (154 Angell St, Providence, through July 19), Kelli Rae Adams sets up racks of canned produce (color coded from green asparagus to red strawberries), a winding row of big, fallen porcelain dominoes (the backs feature see-no-evil, hear-no evil monkeys), and porcelain casts of dollar coins arranged in piles around large jars filled with water and, in the bottom, silt (which I take to be dissolved coins).

Everything is handsomely crafted in “Breaking Even,” which was curated by Brown’s Ian Alden Russell, but I wasn’t sure how the Providence artist intended it to fit together until I read her statement and titles — the canned goods are called 300 pints (or an approximation of the energy invested in the installation) and the coins is 9200 dollars (or the funds invested in the installation). She writes that she means for the dominoes, coins, and canned goods to “offer a means of comparison to invite consideration of what constitutes value and exchange in artwork and artistic production.”

I still don’t feel that the ideas are expressed strongly in the art itself. But I do stop short at the $9200. That gets me to reconsider what constitutes value. Not so much the value of art or the value of money, both of which I value a lot. And I know that it’s not unusual for even single works to fetch that price. But I find myself thinking about how far $9200 can go and what it means to spend — to be able to spend — that much money here.

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