Celebration of sensation

RISD’s ‘2010 Annual Graduate Thesis Exhibition’  
By GREG COOK  |  May 27, 2010

Josh-Webb-RISD-main
FLASHY Joshua Webb’s Apathy for the Setting Sun.

The Rhode Island School of Design’s “Annual Graduate Thesis Exhibition” typically has too many people doing too many different things for any common themes to emerge. But prominent installations in this year’s showcase at the Rhode Island Convention Center (1 Sabin Street, Providence, through June 5) of more than 170 students receiving graduate degrees give the shindig a carnival vibe. It’s a celebration of sensation. 

VIEW: More photos from RISD's Graduate Thesis Exhibition

Epitomizing this is Laura Alesci’s TLC. A sign on the wall says something about her installation containing a mix of pepper spray and tear gas. Opposite is a glass door revealing a glowing pink room. Walk in and mist (it made me cough, but I’m told it’s safe) holds the pink light and hides the room’s architecture preventing you from getting your bearings. As with 1960s Light and Space Art by James Turrell et al, there’s a wondrous disorientation. You feel like you’re existing in pinkness. And as your eyes readjust upon exiting, the rest of the world flashes green.

Another success — though of a purposely irritating sort — is Charlotte Potter’s Between. Sit in one of the six neat black chairs lining the walls of her dull little room and stare up at a TV on which some guy in a tie keeps almost saying something but never can get a word out. A clock on the wall is stuck ticking at 4:06. It’s a waiting room in Hell.

The exhibit has a flashy opening with Joshua Webb’s Apathy for the Setting Sun, glowing fluorescent tube lights arrayed on the floor like 3D Tinkertoy stars. To the left is Anders Johnson’s Stay Pretty, which seems to be a rough sculptural portrait of himself as a bloodied and bandaged boxer sitting on a stool in the corner of a boxing ring.

Beyond is Jessica Cooper’s Sprouting At the Bone, featuring small ceramic people in T-shirts, shorts, and socks balancing on abstracted plants or with foliage sprouting from their backs. Much of the show is an entertaining mix of magic and spectacle, though it doesn’t necessarily stick to the ribs.

Fonda Yoshimoto-Garner turns a room into a dark, foresty maze of earthenware and porcelain branches and gauze ropes. 

Fonda-RISD-main
A FORESTY MAZE Fonda Yoshimoto-Garner’s Fading, Grasping.
Euri Huang’s floor installation Visceral Voices seems like a colony of ceramic clams or sea anemones. Jan Mun’swww.TheProvidenceYard.com fills a room with fragrant sod, three piles of dirt, and three lamps. I’m told green buttons on the wall trigger watering, but I couldn’t detect anything happening when I pressed them.

A lot of pieces here similarly have interesting beginnings that don’t quite pay off. Mary Burge’s Two Lonely Hunters is a tin-roofed shack with boarded up windows. Walk in the screen door, and you find the walls papered with pages from the Picayune Item newspaper and hear the hum of crickets and occasional snatches of talk: “Come by anytime you want to,” “I remember it as clear as it was yesterday.” It feels like an intriguing set waiting for something more to happen. Brett Windham’s Sleepwalking Circus is a red-and-white tent, the door flanked by a pair of creepy mannequins draped in knitting or a checked flag. Inside screens an aimless video of a woman setting up doorways and curtains as mannequins flit about in a long, dark room.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , George Washington, Charlotte Potter, Brett Windham,  More more >
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