A year ago the future looked bright as the RISD Museum debuted its shiny new Chace Center. But as this fall begins, the museum has laid off staff and closed for a month to save money. In August, director Hope Alswang was fired — I mean, suddenly resigned. In retrospect, the University of Rhode Island's June 2008 announcement that it was shuttering its Kingston art galleries may have been a harbinger of the economic doom that now confronts the art world.
SADDLE UP: Albrecht Dürer’s “The Large Horse,” from RISD’s “The Brilliant Line: Following the Early Modern Engraver, 1480-1650.”
What follows are highlights of the fall art schedule — assuming we survive. And we will, I think. Even URI (105 Upper College Road, Kingston) is limping back onto the scene with faculty exhibitions like Barbara Pagh's "PASSAGES" (through October 7), an installation of handmade paper and prints inspired by the ancient Irish megaliths.
The Krause Gallery at Moses Brown School (250 Lloyd Avenue, Providence) opens the season with ONNE VAN DER WAL (through October 2). The Jamestown resident specializes in photographing sailing, from Newport to England to Antigua. If you can get over your jealousy of his adventures, you'll admire the wind, sails, and blue water.
"GREAT EXPECTATIONS — A TALE OF TWO ARTISTS" at the Providence Art Club (11 Thomas Street, Providence, through October 2) offers a retrospective pairing of two venerable Rhode Island artists. Despite losing more and more of his sight to macular degeneration, Thomas Sgouros somehow continues to paint lovely soft-focus Remembered Landscapes. Maxwell Mays is known for his folksy paintings of New England, which have graced the cover of Yankee magazine two dozen times.
Brown University marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the drowning of New Orleans with a series of exhibits, talks, and performances titled "KATRINA, KATRINA" (through September 30). Highlights include Lyn Goeringer's slides-and-sound installation Breakwater in Grant Recital Hall (Hope Street and Young Orchard Avenue, Providence), Robbie Byron's video projection of New Orleans history No Tap Shoes Allowed at the Orwig Music Building (1 Young Orchard Avenue, Providence), and Brown undergraduate Ian Sims's post-Katrina New Orleans photos in the Rockefeller Library Lobby (10 Prospect Street, Providence) and Hillel Gallery (80 Brown Street, Providence).
The RISD Museum (224 Benefit Street, Providence) weighs in with "THE BRILLIANT LINE: FOLLOWING THE EARLY MODERN ENGRAVER, 1480–1650" (September 18-January 3), which assembles 85 engravings from the collections of RISD, the National Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to show advances in the medium during the Renaissance.
The museum's other big fall show is ceramic artist Arnie Zimmerman's "INNER CITY" (September 25-January 3), a bustling mini-metropolis that reads like a morality tale. Meg Turner and Andrew Oesch will offer a related one-day workshop "And We Built a City Together" (September 26) that invites museum visitors to reconsider their notion of community by helping them build a city out of paper, cardboard, and stickers.
The sixth annual digital art hoedown "PIXILERATIONS" electrifies numerous Providence locations from September 24-October 10 as part of the FirstWorks Festival (first-works.org).
The gallery Cade Tompkins Editions + Projects opens at 198 Hope Street, Providence, with drawings and sculptures by KIRSTEN HASSENFELD (September 25-November 14), a companion exhibit to the Brooklyn artist's marvelous paper chandelier installation at Brown University's Bell Gallery (64 College Street, Providence, through November 1). RISD prof Rachel Berwick, whose art often addresses endangered species, will fill the Bell Gallery with a glass installation "ZUGENRUHE" (November 14-February 14) — the title is a German term describing the agitation of birds before they migrate.
The feminist art collective Hive Archive's "WORK BY WOMEN BILLBOARD" project selects four Rhode Island women to exhibit their art, two months at a time, on a sign atop Hive headquarters (150 Manton Avenue, Providence) from October to June.
"FOCUS ON FOUR" at the Newport Art Museum (76 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, October 24-January 24) showcases Rhode Island photographs by heavy hitters Gertrude Käsebier, Lewis Hine, Charlotte Estey, and Aaron Siskind. Käsebier, part of Alfred Steiglitz's circle and known for her soft-focus portraits of, among other folks, Native Americans in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, photographed family and friends while summering in Middletown in 1899 and 1903. The crusading Hine documented child labor and conditions in Rhode Island textile mills at the start of the 20th century. Estey recorded South Main Street in Providence on the eve of urban renewal for the Providence Journal in 1952. Siskind made abstract photos in the region after he came to teach at RISD in 1971.
The adorable pyromaniacs of the Iron Guild celebrate Halloween the way it should be with their annual "IRON POUR" at the Steel Yard (27 Sims Avenue, Providence, October 30), featuring molten metal, loud music, fire, and monsters.
Top Drawer Art Center, which offers programs for adults with developmental disabilities, moves from East Providence to Cutler Mills (16 Cutler Street, Warren) this fall. But its dazzling exhibitions continue with "RETURN TO ROCK 'N' ROLL HEAVEN" (November 14-December 11), featuring bright striped paintings and drawings by Kyle Omega.