A visionary streak

RIC's 'Annual Faculty Exhibition'; Donnamaria Bruton at Cade Tompkins
By GREG COOK  |  September 26, 2013

STRANGE AND SENSUAL Barboza-Gubo's 'Cervus, Purificato.'

A dreamy surrealism frequently runs through Rhode Island sculpture. Think of Dean Snyder’s tall, glassy, seductive flowers of evil; Xander Marro’s clock-headed ladies; Meredith Younger’s two-headed girls; or Liz Collins’s sock monkey outfits and veiny, spiderwebby gowns.

Or consider Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo’s Cervus, Purificato (Latin for “Deer, Purified”), a gray, life-sized, mystical/realist, cast aluminum deer licking the belly of a bald naked man standing atop the peak of a granite tombstone. It’s a strange, still, sensual image, like one of those Greek myths involving amorous relations between people and gods in animal form.

Barboza-Gubo is included in the “Annual Faculty Exhibition” at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery (600 Mount Pleasant Ave, Providence, through October 2) and exemplifies the visionary streak apparent in an intriguing show that runs counter to the abject, purposely unmonumental assemblages of old chairs, wood scraps, mannequin heads, and randomly spraypainted styrofoam that dominate contemporary sculpture in the New York and LA-focused fine art world.

Here at Rhode Island College’s showcase of 3D art teachers, William Martin’s Kitzelnzug resembles a black steel steam engine boiler and smokestack mounted on the wall. Its piston connects to a series of arms, running 16 feet long, ending in a curved wooden pole wrapped at its terminus in a leather sleeve dangling seven black feathers. It’s a curious mix of nature, machine, and totem with a suggestion of potential, wild, maybe self-destructive motion.

Frank Poor covers dollhouse-sized wood building forms with photos of an abandoned warehouse and empty, run-down houses and then mounts them low on the gallery wall, just above the baseboard. The photos capture details of dilapidated wood, fading paint, missing windowpanes, and stark shadows of porch roofs or trees. Poor’s combination of such realism laid atop elementary building models produces a curious, hallucinatory effect, like a memory that is full of detail but doesn’t quite fit.

Doug Bosch’s Tilted Field features amber yellow fiberglass-coated fabric stretched taut over dowels set into wood planks leaning against the wall. It resembles a field of circus tents or shark teeth. His Chandelier #041713 is a cobweb-like bunch of dangling cords coated white and yellow with plaster and pollen suspended from the ceiling by collection of metal hangers. Bosch focuses on abstract form, but in this context the honey rich colors and crusty or sleek surfaces take on an alien, otherworldly cast. These pieces represent some of his finest work — sculptures that in effect turn the mathematics of arcs into poetry. Bosch’s sculptures are particularly flattered by the show’s handsome stagecraft — dramatic spotlights against deep gray walls.

On the whole, the artists’ focus on polished craftsmanship rides a fine line that can teeter between fussy academicism and, when they work, transporting illusions.


A SUBTLE BALANCE Bruton's 'Untitled Landscape IV.'

At Cade Tompkins Projects (198 Hope St, Providence, through October 26), an exhibit of works by the late Donnamaria Bruton is all about laidback, improvisational-seeming handcraft that aims to be as delicate and sensitive as a diary.

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