REASON TO BE CHEERFUL Stapleton and Oberlander at Grin. [Photo by Greg Cook]
“The Betterhalf,” the exhibit by Providence artists Janine Rissewyck and Nicola Mousa Bajalia II at the new gallery Grin (60 Valley St, Providence, through September 13), begins with a recording of the duo reciting words in English and German by performance artist Marina Abramovic: “An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist.” “An artist should be erotic.” “An artist should suffer.” “An artist should look deep inside themselves for inspiration.” “An artist should not have self-control about his life.”
It’s an announcement of what they’re up to — a rugged, romantic conceptualism, plus an evocative sense of materials. The headphones for the audio piece are set in a stand made from old, worn wood beams.
Across the room, near one corner stands a stack of lumps of sand, wrapped in burlap and cling wrap. The Release is a rock with a rope that runs over a pulley to balance a length of pantyhose, suspended inside a Plexiglas tube, and stretched tight by a bulge of sand in the bottom. The Filter is half a clamshell sitting in a clear glass bowl atop sand piled on top of three glowing fluorescent lights on the floor.
Some of the pieces were used in a performance on the opening night. Seeing the aftermath, what took place is unclear — something about pouring water and sand and shells from one jar into another around the room, something about the sea as metaphor for separation and connection. I think. But I’m left with a sense of ritual and the physical drama of elemental forces in tension.
Grin is run by Lindsey Stapleton, 25, and Corey Oberlander, 24.
“There’s that struggle to find a place to show your work,” says Oberlander. “I want to help people show their work.”
They grew up in Massachusetts and met while studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. They both paint. After graduation, he stayed around Boston while she moved to San Francisco for four years. When she grew tired of the Left Coast, she scoped out Providence, where they both now reside. “It can afford people an opportunity to do things that they couldn’t in Boston or San Francisco,” Stapleton says of the city.
“The Better Half” is their third show. Grin’s first, a group exhibition titled “Some Place Here,” opened in June and featured artists from Providence, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Florida.
“Since we’re both working full-time, we’re not dependent on sales to support the space,” Stapleton says. It allows them to pursue experiments. “We’re focusing on student and emerging artists’ work,” Oberlander says. “People who are just beginning their careers.”
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Taiwanese artist Hao Ni, who is studying for his master’s degree at RISD, comes out of a similar materials- and performance-focused conceptual style as Rissewyck and Bajalia. The centerpiece of “Proximity,” his show at Yellow Peril Gallery (60 Valley St, Providence, through September 15), is a pair of black-and-white uniform dresses and a pair of joined school desks supporting a tangle of black plastic pipes that might be abstracted roots or blood vessels.