In the city

Neal Walsh and Scott Lapham at 186 Carpenter
By GREG COOK  |  April 23, 2013

BEATEN UP Walsh's 'edges (pavement).'

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Providence art scene is how the city itself has been such a rich subject. A decade ago, the city became a galvanizing topic as artists fought to protect the old mills that served as their homes and studios from demolition — with mixed success. But lately, the community's industrial architecture itself has attracted artists' attention.

The city is ultimately the subject of paintings by Neal Walsh and photographs by Scott Lapham, two longtime pillars of the AS220 universe, at 186 Carpenter (186 Carpenter St, Providence, through May 10).

The abstract paintings of Walsh's faint murmurs series might not at first glance seem to be about the urban landscape. But most of the paintings are built from recycled scraps of other paintings. And the cracked and peeling and repaired paint, the blue stains, the textures that recall wood paneling or clapboards are inspired by architecture.

"They've got rough edges. They're beaten up. They've been put through the ringer. Some have sat outside for a while. Or been stepped on or stepped over," says Walsh, who is AS220's gallery director (and also a friend). "I'm interested in urban spaces, rust and wear, natural processes and organic processes. But the counterpoint would be memory, too. Stuff that triggers memories, triggers another train of feelings and emotions."

The standout paintings at first appear to simply be white-on-white abstractions. The limited color alerts you to heighten your senses to detect their subtleties — the scuffs and scratches, the way the paint is layered like the walls of a much trafficked old hallway in which so much paint has been built up over the years that the doors no longer close quite right. And then a fog of gold or pink begins to seep through the cool gray whites and seems to glow.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Providence, Neal Walsh, AS220,  More more >
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