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Beautiful garbage

‘Trash’ — and more — at AS220 and Project Space
By GREG COOK  |  January 20, 2010

FOUND SCULPTURE Lapham’s Perfectly Preserved Sea Shore #2.

"Trash" at AS220's Project Space (93 Mathewson Street, Providence, through January 29) focuses on our love-hate relationship with garbage. Curator Lee Fearnside of Ohio loosely organizes the five-person show around the theme of artists exploring "the complex connections between garbage and human behavior" in a nation with "a rubbish crisis."

There are some outright references to our refuse, like Fearnside's photos of water in sewage treatment plant ponds. But mostly what we have here is artists using recycled materials or images in their work in a magpie tradition that reaches back to Robert Rauschenberg and Pablo Picasso. It seems more a reflection of our culture than commentary upon it.

Caroline Paquita of Philadelphia flies the banner of our disposable culture with her jaunty sequined pennant for "Trash." Her works are cute, witty, crafty things in the tradition of patchwork quilts made from scraps of worn-out clothes. Waste Not Want Not features the title embroidered on polka dot fabric behind a pair of framed underwear. She reports the briefs were "found in Walmart dumpster in 2002 and worn until this year."

Meanwhile Jo Dery of Providence exhibits Peeks, a video collage of brief staccato shots of a monkey, falling leaves, a bird wing, cans on the ground, and an animated drawing of a pigeon perched on a brick building before flapping away. Holly Hey of Ohio shows a jittery video panning across a still life set up of new disposable plates, cups, and napkins printed with American flag designs.

Providence artist Scott Lapham's Perfectly Preserved Sea Shore #4 is a gooey crusty line of flotsam, maybe eight feet long, that he glued together much as he found it washed up on some beach — sticks, soda bottles, a foam buoy, a cork, a feather. Lapham has been exhibiting works from this series for a few years now, including in 5 Traverse's own "Trash" group show in 2008. They all begin with his brilliant observation that these tangles of washed-up junk constitute found sculptures. Part of it is the mix of materials. And the bigger ones, with their more complex and impressive conglomerations of trash, seem to be better.

A POETIC DREAM Subotnick’s JellyFishers.

Also at the Project Space, Providence's Steven Subotnick screens his animated video Jelly Fishers and exhibits affiliated drawings, paintings, and prints. The film shows a lone house on an island in which three mole people stare at empty plates. The mama puts a baby in a swing, where it sleeps, as she goes out fishing. A wave overturns the mom's boat and crashes over the house, sinking it in the sea. A jellyfish saves the mom and the house resurfaces atop a giant second jellyfish. Inside the house, all eat a meal of jellyfish. The story and Subotnick's soft, scratchy, doodly expressionist style make it feel like a poetic dream.

At AS220's Main Gallery (115 Empire Street), Bill Killen of Burrillville redraws Renaissance prints by Albrecht Durer, substituting porn stars for saints. He adds twin jailbait girls — one lifting her skirt — into Durer's engraving of St. Philip. He removes St. Anthony from a Durer engraving and inserts a pair of scantily clad women sunbathing with a boombox hanging from the saint's cross. He turns an engraving of Jesus being whipped before crucifixion into a S&M scene by replacing Christ with a pair of porn stars, one with her underwear pulled down to mid-thigh, enjoying the rough stuff.

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Related: Ghost stories, Wanting more, Photos: Boston expressionism at Danforth Museum, More more >
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