Providence is one of the most fertile art-making communities anywhere, but commercial galleries showcasing groundbreaking art made here — the art that defines the future — struggle to stay in existence. Gallery Agniel shuttered in 2007 after eight years, Stairwell Gallery closed in 2009, and 5 Traverse closed in 2010. There are many reasons why they struggle, but the main one is money: too few local collectors and too few connections to out-of-town buyers.
HEAT WAVES A painting by Mark Freedman.
A year and a half ago, the commercial gallery scene in Providence seemed bleak, but since then four galleries have come into their own: Cade Tompkins Projects and Craftland in Providence, which both launched in 2009; Candita Clayton Studio, which began showing art in Pawtucket last year; and R.K. Projects, which began producing pop-up exhibits last fall.
Last month Sara Agniel Buonaccorsi of Gallery Agniel and her husband Jon Buonaccorsi, who founded the online print gallery Tiny Showcase in 2005, debuted their new gallery Buonaccorsi+Agniel at 1 Sims Avenue in Providence. Agniel Buonaccorsi says they missed the action: "We're just like, 'It's lame, there's no gallery, what the fuck.' "
They're one of the power couples of Rhode Island art, combining sharp eyes with wherewithal. Financially the gallery rests on Buonaccorsi's printing business, the Head Light Hotel, which produces screenprint music posters as well as limited fine art editions. It fills up a good chunk of the back of the 2000-square-foot space, which might be familiar from recent pop-up shows like "We're going to make some big decisions in our little world" last spring. "I just wanted to be able to do retail stuff and events," he says. Agniel Buonaccorsi says she plans to keep her day job as a commodities broker.
MYTHOLOGICAL PRIZE Kara Quigley's Pegasus.
Their first exhibit, "Yes!" (through November 12), showcases 50 artists from all over, but it reads like a lively, jam-packed who's who of present and former residents of Li'l Rhody. Two major strains of local art emerge: psychedelic (Jungil Hong, Brian Chippendale, Andrew Moon Bain, Mickey Zacchilli, Cody Thompson, James Quigley aka Gunsho, Jo Dery, Leif Goldberg, Jill Colinan, CF) and expressionist (Ruth Dealy, Mike Taylor, Neal Walsh, Thomas Sgouros, Dan Talbot). The categories are porous (Taylor could fit in either) and they aren't the only trends hereabouts. Anna Highsmith's stoneware tea set embodies our penchant for craftsmanship. And Arley Rose Torsone's It's Going to be O.K. poster holds the banner for RI's witty, rascally, yet embracing spirit.
There's lots of cool stuff, but let me just mention a handful of highlights. Matt Tracy's A detailed map of, uh, New Ham 1878 is a handsome map in ink, acrylic, and marble dust built up in 3D relief, but it's not of New Hampshire. And it's annotated with joke labels like "Vale of Soft Grass and Cute Ruminants," "Vast Snowmobile Paradise," "Bay of Hard Work," and "Knot's Landing." Another map includes the notation: "Obviously, this area is meant to convey the idea of water, the substance which, in great volume, isolates our unique culture from those other weird countries." I look at these paintings and think: More, please.