A TERRORIST ACT? A detail from Cai’s “Move Along.”

Cai Guo-Qiang has mounted his two big crocodiles at head height, where you can peer into their snapped open jaws lined with fangs. The yellow, pasty maws give away that the brawny critters are made of cast resin. But they still feel lifelike. Even though they're each impaled on half a dozen pointed bamboo poles, and stabbed with hundreds of rusty pocket knives, scissors, forks, and screwdrivers, it's unnerving to stare into those jaws, especially if you're familiar with how still live crocs can sit as they lay in ambush.

DELICATE A drawing by Jenny Brown at Candida Clayton Studio.
Cai, a Chinese artist based in New York who was the subject of a major 2008 retrospective at New York's Guggenheim Museum, calls the crocodiles "Move Along, Nothing to See Here." They're part of his show of the same name at Brown University's Granoff Center (154 Angell Street, Providence, through October 28). Just looking at the fierce things, you wouldn't guess that the knives and forks and so on were all confiscated at New York airport security checkpoints. (It would be nice if art didn't require footnotes in the form of exhibit signs and handouts to make such things clear, but whatever.) Knowing the weapons' origin, we recognize a magical conceptual brew given extra charge because of the knives' origins. What do the crocodiles represent? What do the bamboo spears represent? Not clear. But we're certainly talking about terrorism, of the fear of how simple things like box cutters can be turned into weapons of mass destruction.

Cai's "Clear Sky Black Cloud" is a slide show of photos shot by a camera always in the same place on New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's roof, recording visitors gazing at black clouds blotting the sunny sky over Central Park. They are small clouds, like rainclouds that follow a particularly unlucky cartoon character, but they're still ominous.

"Sustainable Beauty," a five-person show at Candita Clayton Studio (999 Main Street, unit 105, Pawtucket, through October 31), is about pretty nature and pretty flowers. Jenny Brown makes delicate ink and collage drawings of bouquets of blood red and inky black flowers. Mimo Gordon Riley paints impressionist trees with sun shining through the branches like stained glass. Kate Blacklock photographs arrangements of hydrangeas and other blossoms. It's all rather saccharine. Didi Suydam is in this same sweet, sweet territory with her digital photos of cherry blossoms and reflecting lakes in which she inverses the colors so they resemble negatives. This inversion freshens the theme. The leaves of a forest all turn blue. What looks to have originally been a setting sun becomes a black hole. In Flash Dream, tree trunks turn icy white against a lilac background. Here and there are turquoise smudges. The results are painterly and slick with a wintery chill.

"Independents" at West Side Arts (745 Westminster Street, Providence, through November 14) takes inspiration from the independent spirit of the founders of Providence to assemble a show of (mostly) street-style art. Much of the work seems like it's yet to emerge out of the shadows cast by Swoon, Shepard Fairey, or '70s wild style graffiti — but you can appreciate the gang's energy.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , New York, Brown University, Cai Guo-Qiang,  More more >
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