'Very Providencey'

"Going Nowhere" showcases Brown alumni who stuck around
By GREG COOK  |  June 11, 2014

0613_Art_eye_top.jpg 
ALIENY Yanishevsky's 'Eye.'

“World building” is an idea that percolates — perhaps unconsciously — through the visionary end of the Providence art scene. It’s a science fiction term for inventing your own fantasy world with all its flora and fauna and rules. Among the Providence crowd, it manifests in the freaky imagined lands that appear in their art as well as in the hands-on, homespun, do-it-yourself, grow-your-own, bike-to-work way many folks actually live here — from the feminist collective live/work space Dirt Palace in a defunct Olneyville library to Building 16, an old mill that became a hothouse for art-making before everyone was evicted last year.

That mix of dreaming up new worlds and handcrafting your own reality is evident in the exhibition “Going Nowhere: Alumni Artists in Providence” at Brown University’s Bell Gallery (64 College St, Providence, through July 7), featuring Brown alums from the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s who still reside here and are “grounded in a particular aesthetic or approach to making work that feels very Providency,” says Jori Ketten of 186 Carpenter gallery, and various other local projects, who co-curated with the Bell Gallery’s Alexis Lowry Murray. (I should note that they’re all based in Providence except for the couple Kevin Hooyman and Jenny Nichols, who have decamped to New York — temporarily, I hope — while problems with their Providence home are fixed.)

What is “very Providency”? In this particular instance, it’s about making art outside the spotlights of the New York and Los Angeles art scenes. It’s a more affordable town, with talented peers, and a bustling New England work ethic. Peter Glantz —who will reveal “the hidden story within the art during a tour of the gallery” this Saturday and Sunday, June 14 and 15, at 2 and 3 pm — has said that the city attracts “people who are focused more on creating a culture and community through art and performance than their own individual careers.” It’s a dedication to craft — knitting, quilting, screenprinting, elaborate drawing. It’s everyday life refracted through the grotesque and otherworldly. “There’s this element of fantasticalness,” Ketten says. It adds up to a thrilling show, one of the best of the year.

Tatyana Yanishevsky makes soft, cozy knit plant-things that dangle from the ceiling, complete with leaves and seedpods and droopy testicle-like sacks. Eye is shaped like an eyeball with long crab legs. Get close and a motion sensor triggers the legs to curl up with this creepy alien motion.

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