Megan and Murray McMillan's video The Remains of Something Whole offers similar magic. A woman walks slowly, ceremonially, out of a bank safe and into a big hall (Pell Chafee Performance Center in Providence). A man plays a grand piano. People pace holding papers. The woman walks between the two halves of a two-story-tall sculpture — wooden ribs that form the shape of a head — and it hinges closed around her. The camera pulls up, showing televisions within the head and, somewhere in there, the woman climbing up stairs inside until she pokes out over the top. The camera pans up to the ornate ceiling as a choir sings. The McMillans excel at creating breathtaking sets and props that they use in curious, dramatic, dreamy, poetic vignettes. But like their other recent videos, there's a feeling of incredible potential that doesn't quite ignite.

Dave Cole's sculptures are similarly frustrating. He deploys his signature masterly craftsmanship in Bullet Flag VII, an American flag assembled from recovered bullets and bullet fragments. But his metaphor feels too simple — flag of bullets equals a nation of guns and violence, of freedom ain't free, of preemptive war, of might makes right.

1)-Everything-tree_main
COMPOST OF IMAGES Talbot’s Everything Tree (I half-believe everything).

Dan Talbot's paintings look like composts of images he's observed, painted one atop the next, and turned this way and that. In Everything Tree (I half-believe everything), a chair and desk melt away to a yard with flowerpots, trees, garage, and blue house beyond. Amidst blurry blobs in Ocean State, you might decipher a naked lady, a bottle of cooking oil, a thermos, a swan. There's something muddy about his colors and his approach in general that doesn't float my boat. But smart folks have featured his work at Brown, AS220, and now here over the past year, so I'm open to the idea that the problem is mine.

Read Greg Cook's blog at  gregcookland.com/journal.

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