David Craig’s exhibition “Polarized” at 186 Carpenter (186 Carpenter St, Providence, through March 14) is the first section of the gallery’s two-part “exhibition on Antarctica.” Embedded in his abstract assemblages are, here and there, handsome photos (that I take to be) of water and golden sun and blue-white snow in the Antarctic. Some photos and wooden shapes hide behind rippled plastic screens. Or the pictures, sometimes right-side up, sometimes upside-down, peek out from amidst boxes, boards, and frames made of foam, plastic, wood, and curious found stuff. Everything is elegantly arranged in rectangles, stripes, or grids, plus an occasional slanting angle or a graceful curve.
At the gallery, I wasn’t sure of the Antarctic connections. I mean, the photos are obvious, but what’s not as apparent because the references are coded is that the materials themselves are meant to recall or be the sorts of materials Craig found when, the gallery says, he worked as a carpenter at a base station on the frozen southern continent. For those who have not been to Antarctica, his foam and wood and plastics might bring to mind the stuff used on commercial fishing boats, docks, floats, and other gear around New England.
But what really seems to motivate Craig here is abstraction. These are modest, polite post-modern “combines,” part of the lineage of Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Tuttle, but crisp and calm and precise.
Follow Greg Cook on Twitter @AestheticResear.