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Tax dollars at work

Imago hosts the ‘2010 RISCA Fellowship Exhibit’
By GREG COOK  |  February 10, 2010

A LOVELY ALCHEMY A  detail from Owen’s untitled installation.

The standout piece in the "2010 RISCA Fellowship Exhibition" is Alison Owen's hand-drawn wallpaper installation. She teases us with charming optical illusions — hanging framed designs alongside empty picture frames that actually highlight stripes and fleur de lis designs that she has dawn on the wall behind them. And then there's her secret serious joke that the wallpaper stripes are drawn with dirty mop water and the patterns of fleur de lis made from dust she's swept up.

Here's where the catchy delicate loveliness of Owen's light rococo designs nudge you toward heavier thoughts about the difference between art and decoration. And the place of women in art, and the world. As art has returned to out-and-out beauty over the past 15 years or so, it has come charged with lingering questions about why in the past beauty and patterns (think wallpaper) had often been dismissed as, say, women's work. She presses further with that questioning by using the recycled detritus of housekeeping — another branch of what is often women's work — as her art materials. Which raises another issue: how to keep making art amidst all the demands of our daily chores? Her answer is a lovely alchemy that turns dirt into treasure.

The 13 visual artists in the show at Imago (36 Market Street, Warren, through February 27) are all winners of Rhode Island State Council on the Arts grants ranging from $1000 to $5000. (The fellowships also support choreography, music, and writing.) There's no central theme in the exhibition, except here is a bunch of good stuff from local artists (all but one reside in Providence). A number of the strongest works continue Owen's exploration of pattern and decoration.

You may have seen Jenine Bressner wandering around Providence in one of her cascading necklaces of big rainbow-hued glass beads. If you have, you'll remember: the pieces are eye-popping collections of what look like miniature outer space cartoon party balloons. Here she offers a selection of glass jewelry, including one of the Party Neck Crowns, as well as a more demure Four Strand Glass Chain Necklace, which features tiny glass chain links that look like ice. Bressner excels at making flamboyant showstoppers. The most striking piece here is Red Drops Neck Crown. It's an alluring, luscious necklace of vivid red glass that resembles a colony of sea anemones — and seems similarly alive.

SURREAL SCREENPRINT Hong’s Rodman’s Deck (birds).

Elizabeth Duffy creates a neat installation that resembles a high-end furniture showroom featuring a mod chair upholstered with fabric featuring a wiggly circle pattern sitting before a wall papered with leaf designs. On the wall hang two sharp pencil drawings of these same patterns filling envelope shapes. Which makes you might realize that all the patterns here are redrawn versions of the designs inside security envelopes. Duffy aims to speak a bit about security in our culture. That doesn't ring deeply with me, but there's something right on about taking these hidden patterns embedded in our culture and blowing them up into enveloping designs.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Entertainment, Alison Owen, Jungil Hong,  More more >
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