Good fellows

The RISCA showcase; plus, Jon Laustsen
By GREG COOK  |  February 20, 2008
MYSTERIOUS ARCHITECTURE: Lausten’s “The Reachers and the Dwellers.”

The “2008 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition” at Machines With Magnets (400 Main Street, Pawtucket, through February 26) offers a grab bag of work — realistic still-life etchings, glass, ceramic mugs, abstract painting, deadpan photos — by 17 artists who have won state grants of $1000 or $5000 for “artistic excellence.”
The highlight is terrific graphic design by AS220 communications director Arley-Rose Torsone. Her pieces range from a punky AS220 flier to the supreme suave elegance of her marketing package for the Dreyfus. Her screenprinted poster for November’s AS220 “Design Providence” event features a loose brushy outline of a cloud and outlined hand-o-God that shine a yellow ray of light on the text at bottom: “And then AS220 had a design studio.” Torsone mixes several different typefaces — blocky carnival or cowboy lettering, elegant type, some script, streamlined sans serif type — for a crisp jaunty effect that somehow avoids muddle. Her work recalls midcentury retro-modern design by Paul Rand, Push Pin Studios, and George Maciunas’s Fluxus stuff. There are many reasons why AS220 is cool, but Torsone is a key reason why the joint and its projects look — and thus feel — so immediately cool.

The 2005 photo Girl with clover and demolished house by Jennifer Kodis of Cranston shows a girl squatting in a weedy lawn, apparently to pick a clover. Just behind her looms a heap of boards and rubble from a demolished house. Other photos show a child’s plastic slide before a giant pile of dirt and a couple carrying a large sheet of pegboard along a chain-link fence that divides a forlorn road or parking lot from tall rocky bluff. The series seems to be curious bland non sequiturs about real estate development and people’s alienation from the natural world.
Providence artist Eamon Brown’s Ultimate Things (2007) are a trio of fun, decorative op art wood sculptures. Each one seems to be a pair of boards cut into the shape of peppers or butterflies, joined perpendicularly at their center so they’ll be freestanding, and painted with psychedelic concentric stripes of red and gray, or green, or brown. Thomas Doran’s Deployment (2007) presents white styrofoam boards that look like flat humanoid robots with silver and red stripes when leaning against the gallery wall. Set on the floor and folded up, they resemble drone airplanes. Together they feel like funny, sinister futuristic origami Transformer warrior-bots.
Daniel Talbot’s painting Yellow House (2007) is a simple scene of a house, a few trees, and the top of a car made intriguing by the way everything is glimpsed in soft-edged bits that trail off into nothingness.
The exhibition is rounded out by visual art by David Allyn, Sam Duket, Jesse Burke, Kevin Cunningham, Steve Easton, Liz Collins, Stephen Fisher, and Lloyd Martin; videos of dance choreographed by Nathan Andary and Melody Ruffin Ward; and music by Gerald Shapiro and Nina Ott. Film and video by grant winners Mat Brinkman, Xander Marro, Kendall Moore, and Ju-Pong Lin will be screened on February 22 and 23.

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