Print the legend

By GREG COOK  |  September 28, 2006

Chippendale’s work features little guys scurrying around and lavish layering that arises naturally out of screenprinting and the endlessly collaged walls of Fort Thunder. (At one point he was tacking up emptied food containers.) During the fight to save the Fort, he made a poster of a heaping tower of buildings and cartoon characters that was supposed to evoke the endangered mill lofts: “Support the mills and the art community within them by coming to the public hearing in city hall . . . this may be our only chance.”

The “Wunderground” organizers don’t identify individual posters by their makers. That’s in line with the anonymity of the Providence style of secret hideouts, code names, and masks, but it frustrates efforts to trace relationships between the posters and the installations next door, or the interactions between artists, which is what these punk communes are all about. As far as I can gather, the Fort style arose not so much from collaboration as from the coincidental coming together of very talented artists with shared interests. Groups inspired by the Fort, like the Hive Archive, a feminist collective founded in 2000, and the Dirt Palace, a feminist collective it spawned in 2002, fed off the scene’s creative energy, but they reflect more diverse tastes. This is apparent in the events they host: music as well as poetry and teach-ins on US–Middle East relations. The Fort could have a slobbery roughhousing Lost Boys vibe; the ladies add a welcome counterpoint.

Erin Rosenthal, a rare female Fort alum, contributes a charming pink poster for a 2002 concert at the Dirt Palace with what looks like a masked donkey scaling a hill, much of the design seemingly assembled from chads made with a hole puncher. The posters of Xander Marro, one of the founders of the Hive, often show women in beehive hairdos and old-time goth motifs.

NOTICE FOREST: At “Crafty,” Yuken Teruya’s trees snipped from shopping bags fall into the “Wow, how did they do that?” category.
Shangri-la-la-land plunges you into darkness. Wooden signs by Pippi Zornoza (another Hive founder) with ironwork by Lu Heintz give warning. “Please enter and see the beginning of the end of everything.” And “Our faithful unicorn shall hassle whosoe’er disturb this castle.” Yikes!

Brinkman’s giant papier-mâché ogre Maximum Ogredrive looms over you as you walk in, staring with blank gold eyes and shivering. Its sharp teeth are bent into an alarming grin. To the right, Jim Drain has incorporated a century-old Native American totem pole from the museum’s collection into his hot-colored, zigzag-striped altar Vertical Faces with Sculpture and Totem Pole. A pair of columns, dangling chains of beads, stand in front.

Drain, the Fort artist who has enjoyed the greatest art-world success, created some of the most inventive comics to come out of Thunder. And check out his poster of a jumble of tubes or chimneys spouting advertisements for wrestling. But after the initial razzmatazz of his riffs on Aboriginal ornament here wear off, I’m left wanting something more.

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