Out of the shadows

By IAN DONNIS  |  September 27, 2006

I’m not as knowledgeable about the music myself, but I did ask somebody about what they thought the relationship between the art and the music was, and they used as an example Brian Chippendale and Lightning Bolt. The way that he uses these very repetitive dot patterns is, in a way, related to the layering that he uses in his music, and that to me is very interesting. So I think that’s something that deserves to be looked at even further.

How receptive were the artists to taking part in this show, and how did you or the museum go about reaching out to them?
I felt that the show would really have to be generated to a large degree by the artists who we invited to work here. So I brainstormed with a few people and came up with a group of about eight artists who we invited to have a meeting and talk about the possibility of doing an exhibition. And to our great delight, all eight of them thought that it was an interesting idea. So we really went from there.

At the first meeting, I think, we came up with the idea of the poster show. The artists were really interested in the idea of seeing, all together, as many of the posters that have been produced here in a 10-year period, starting in 1995 when Fort Thunder and some of the other collective spaces were in their infancy. And we decided to stop it in the year we actually started [working on] the show in 2005. Then in conjunction with that, I really encouraged them to think about doing something new for the museum and to create new work. So we looked at the places, we had to figure out which parts of the museum would work best to have an exhibition here and how to organize both of those projects.

What do you make of the contradiction in how Providence’s creative underground has attracted international recognition, yet at the same time it’s not really known by many of the people who live within a few miles of where it takes place?
That’s a really interesting and important point, because that was one of the reasons why we wanted to do the exhibition — because people right here don’t know. Just in terms of being responsive to the community and [people] who live here, but also our audience, I really felt a responsibility to say, “This is something that’s in your own community.” The tricky part is to do a show in an institution with a group of artists who work very non-institutionally, and yet to allow them as much freedom as possible to experiment and to create the kind of work they would like to [make].

Lots of cities have art scenes and underground art scenes. What is it about Providence and this particular scene that has attracted such far-flung attention?
hat’s a really good question. I think there’s a different style and look to it. Some of the characteristics that we’ve talked about just in relation to this particular piece — it becomes this whole kind of ethos [extending to] even the way people live and the way they dress, as well as the artwork that they made. So it becomes a whole community that shares a lot of the same interests. There’s a do-it-yourself way of operating, using recycled materials, living inexpensively.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Visual Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, Brian Chippendale,  More more >
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