David Winton Bell Gallery

Past Exhibitions

June 11, 2011 - July 10, 2011
Sam Duket Shawn Gilheeney
Ernest Jolicoeur Maria Napolitano
Lisa Perez Ara Peterson
Masha Ryskin Monica Shinn
Dan Talbot Jason Travers


Among the Breakage features recent paintings by ten Providence artists.  As this sampling suggests, Providence’s creative communities are more akin to an archipelago than a single island of “regional style.” Work in this exhibition ranges from hard-edged abstraction to hybrid figurative landscapes and techniques that stretch the very definition of painting.
The show’s title is taken from The Dry Salvages, T.S. Eliot’s poem about a hazardous group of rocks off the New England coast, around which ship wreckage drifts. “Among the breakage” evokes both Providence’s post-industrial landscape and the ways in which its artists are creating anew amidst the wreckage of Modernist painting orthodoxy.

Perhaps due to the freedom afforded by working in the art world periphery, several of these artists are in dialogue with what Roberta Smith calls the “maverick branch” of painting, "constantly stretching the medium, extending it into installation art or questioning its status as a precious, high-skill commodity."  

With roots in Minimalism and Op-Art, Ara Peterson’s modular sculpture-paintings create an effect reminiscent of geometric computer art, but are made through a labor-intensive, hand-painted process. Likewise, Sam Duket’s slick forms combine 3-dimensionality with optical illusions, confounding both flat and shaped surfaces, while Lisa Perez’s hand-painted forms float on the wall, themselves 2-dimensional, but activating the space behind the work through shadows and reflection. Jason Travers also allows the glow of color fields to reflect on the wall in between the elements of his minimal, painterly, multi-part canvases. 

These artists’ palettes and textures often evoke the environs of Providence’s post-industrial landscape while expanding the definition of “landscape painting” — a term often negatively associated with regional art. Landscape takes an unexpected turn in Dan Talbot’s works, plein-air color studies injected with abstract-expressionist, non-linear density. Maria Napolitano’s witty molecular landscape studies share Talbot’s loose, scrawling line and attention to color. Ernest Jolicoeur juxtaposes multiple landscape views, pieced together on canvas panels with a nod to Cubism, while Monica Shinn layers impressionistic scenes floating in non-linear space. Shawn Gilheeney’s site-specific installation — his largest yet — digs into the wall itself and celebrates the detritus of the Providence landscape in spare delicate lines, with a palette and texture picked up in Masha Ryskin’s purely abstract collage-paintings.

Each artist here works in dialogue with the international art world as well as with one another, creating paintings that may hint at their Providence and New England context, obliquely. They have in common a profound dedication to their art, and uniquely individual routes to testing the limits of their process.