A sensational sampler

'NetWorks 2011/2012' at the Newport Art Museum
By GREG COOK  |  July 24, 2013

A KNOCKOUT Chippendale's 'The High Castle.'

If you need a reminder of the brilliance of art made here, it’s especially evident with nearly every local venue digging into Ocean State creativity this month — from the RISD Museum opening its big survey of “Locally Made” art to AS220’s steady monthly showcases of art made here.

It’s unusual — but welcome — to see our big institutions like RISD putting art made here at center stage. But what’s not unusual is to see collector and philanthropist Joseph Chazan behind a lot of it.

“NetWorks 2011/2012,” his fifth roundup of Rhode Island-made art since 2008, is at the Newport Art Museum (76 Bellevue Ave, through September 15). One can quibble with some of who’s in and who’s out, but “NetWorks,” with 10 to 20 artists in each edition featured in exhibitions, catalogues, and — especially — individual video profiles (see youtube.com/user/NetWorks Project2008), is a primary record of the cream of Rhode Island artists of our era.

Among 25 artists in the current show are WaterFire founder Barnaby Evans and Eugene Lee, resident set designer for Trinity Rep since the ’60s, a designer for Saturday Night Live since 1975, and the winner of multiple Tony Awards, including his 2004 prize for sets for the Broadway production of Wicked.

Brian Chippendale’s 2011 collage, drawing, and painting The High Castle depicts a hill that’s a sort of fairyland garbage dump jumble — with ragged fences, a broken airplane, a boat, a toadstool, jack-o’-lantern heads, a dome city, and butterflies. A cat-headed guy warms its hands at a hobo fire. At the summit stands a ramshackle wooden shack that radiates bands of artificially-flavored rainbow hues, like the building is possessed or it’s an alien craft landing from outer space. The title seems to reference a Philip K. Dick novel that imagines America losing World War II. The whole composition is sort of melting and hallucinatory — and feels like castoffs of America. The High Castle is a knockout artwork, one of the best made in Rhode Island in the past decade.

Corey Grayhorse grooves in this same candyland psychedelia that has been a signature of Providence over the past couple decades; her photos merge fashion and dreams. She’s a better photographer than her four prints here suggest, but Come On Now Child (2013) gives you a taste of her style: a blonde, brown-skinned model pulls along a girl sporting a cat mask in front of a big blue wall.

Mark Taber’s Mind Your Ps and Qs (2013) is a shiny chrome carriage decorated with hearts and stars and twinkling chandeliers, that seems to be driven by a Jazz Age magic rocket engine.

SUBLIME BEAUTY Jameson's 'Yosemite Lower Falls.'


Philip Jameson’s 1991 black-and-white photo Yosemite Lower Falls shows a great rush of white water of crashing down against coal black rocks. It’s the sublime beauty and power of nature, done in an Ansel Adams style. Richard Fishman’s monumental bronze cast of the stump of an elm tree is a simple, straightforward idea. It sits in the middle of the gallery, split in two suggesting a pair of benches, and slowly radiating elemental power.

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