FANCIFUL CREATURES A drawing by David Cicerone.
Joe Pastore is a “Juggalo,” according to his brief artist biography for the exhibit “Artless: Rhode Island Outsider Art with RHD-RI” 186 Carpenter St. Gallery in Providence. His bio supports this by including a photo of him in a hoodie professing his allegiance to the horror-hip-hop rap duo Insane Clown Posse.
His art also seems to make reference to the monster-costumed metal band Gwar and video games. But all this inspiration alone cannot account for the uncanny force radiating from his sentinels in his color pencil drawings.
The totemic creatures’ bodies are abstracted and rendered with patterns, giving them masklike faces and unreadable eyes. They’re armored with horns and claws and spines. A green guy seems part alien, part Creature from the Black Lagoon. Some seem like plants that have become sentient. One features a head and body that are orifice-eyes ringed by radiating jagged energy lines.
Pastore’s “King Winter Snow Shadow,” which seems to be a reference to a brand of winter hunting camouflage, might be crying, or maybe he has claws around his eyes, as he stands in a coat dotted with a pattern that helps him disappear into the falling snow around him.
This is the sort of art I found on the walls at 186 Carpenter on a recent sunny morning. The storefront was abuzz with people drawing and painting. It seemed to epitomize one of the aims of the gallery: to use creativity to foster community.
The majority of the folks there were participants like Pastore in Resources for Human Development-RI’s arts-based therapy programs for adults with developmental disabilities. The Pawtucket agency has the gang making art in the gallery on Mondays and Thursdays through the end of the show on June 30. And the walls of the place are filled with their thrilling results — haloed saints and monster trucks and straight-up monsters.
Holly Titus, “an avid church-goer,” surrounds haloed ladies and horned devils with stream-of-consciousness lists of Biblical commandments (“Do not cuss/Do not commit adultery/Do not murder) and pop culture references (Titanic, Strawberry Shortcake, “This Land Is My Land/Raymond Memory is a Nice Man Ghostbusters”).
FRESH AND UNFETTERED A painting by Raymond Lee Jordan.
Raymond Lee Jordan depicts elaborate heavy vehicles — maybe Humvees — as well as giant bunnies and faces painted with the spiky black and white skeleton glam of the band Kiss
More than a century ago, pioneering modernists turned to art by adults with developmental disabilities, by children, by ancients of the Mediterranean, and by tribes in Africa as they looked for ways to break out of what they saw as tired, stilted late-19th-century, academy-trained realism. They were questing after fresh, passionate, unfettered ways of seeing and thinking about the world. Shows like “Artless” are similarly a tonic to the bloodless, conceptually driven, sensually deprived, emotionally vacant contemporary art that too often is our status quo.