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Mirthful morbidity

“Penguins, Zombies, and Nudes” at Craftland
By GREG COOK  |  April 3, 2012

PenguinBum_main
PURPOSEFULLY SOPHOMORIC SLAPSTICK A detail from Stones’s Penguin, Zombie, Bum.

Greenville painter Greg Stones writes that he sketches a basic landscape or figure study, "then I try to think of what would make the painting especially awesome. Penguins, zombies, and nudes are invariably the answer."

This is the recipe behind his just-released book Zombies Hate Stuff (Chronicle Books $9.95). Zombies, you'll probably not be surprised to learn, really, really hate kittens, hippies, snowmen, Martians, dog poop, weddings, sharing, and war reenactors. But "Zombies love&ldots;/YOU!"

Stones continues on with this sort of amusing wisecracking in his exhibit "Penguins, Zombies, and Nudes" at Craftland (235 Westminster Street, Providence, through April 7), which features 30 postcard-sized gouaches that blend cuteness with B-movie silliness.

Two bored looking cats sit in the middle of a zombie and vampire faceoff. A penguin waves a revolver at a giant robot foot stomping through snow. A zombie watches as his hand floats away, ripped off but still gripping the string of a red balloon. A penguin with a light saber faces off with the Grim Reaper, whose body language suggests that frankly he ain't that impressed. In Moon Penguin Sees Boobies, a green alien lady flashes her tits at an alien penguin on the moon.

The zombies are all dressed like extras from Reservoir Dogs and the penguins seem like aloof, smart birds from The Far Side who have finally found a new gig. Stones's painting gets the information across perfunctorily. The point is purposely sophomoric slapstick, sort of giggly and kind of degrading to women, and (mostly) still funny because the jokes are so absurd, so gratuitous, so harebrained. The one that really gets me is Penguins, Sharks, Love, in which of a pair of shark fins circle an ice floe on which one penguin gives another penguin a rose. I'm a sucker for love.

Zombies-Hate-Stuff_main
HAMMER TIME A detail from the cover of Stones’s Zombies Hate Stuff.

At the heart of the Storefront's presentation of the "Carpenter Street Branch" of Andrew Beccone's Brooklyn-based "Reanimation Library" (186 Carpenter Street, Providence, through April 27) is a utopian vision. "The library is here for you," a sign explains. "It's about making. It's about authorship. It's about re-authorship." But deep down, it's about striving for a better community through group art making.

The library itself is a group of shelves displaying fascinatingly eccentric vintage books discovered in local thrift shops, used bookstores, and antique malls. You're not allowed to borrow these volumes about home design, anatomy, fashion, makeup, roller-skating, toys, stars, mushrooms, sign languages, embroidery, and egg decorating, but a copier and scanner are provided to encourage you to reuse their contents in making your own art. Even for an artist, walking in on a quiet day, this invitation to not just look but actually make something (albeit partly recycled) can feel a bit like going to see a magician and suddenly being called on stage to assist. It can leave you feeling a bit unprepared and awkward and unsure of just what to do. It asks you to be giving, good, and game.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , zombies, humor, Joseph Beuys,  More more >
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