ART REVIEWS OF THIS EXHIBITION
Providence Journal-Bulletin ART WRAPUP by Bill Van Siclen December 26, 2002
Diversity within unity from 19 on Paper
Ready to start working off those Christmas cookies? Good. Then let's start with "Reveal/Conceal," an exhibit of prints, drawings, photographs and other works on paper at the Newport Art Museum. Actually, there's a reason for the show's pulp fetish: all the contributors belong to 19 on Paper, a loose fellowship of artists who work with paper-based materials.
If the group's name rings a bell, that's probably because 19 on Paper has been around for a while (it was founded in Providence in 1986). Of that original group, only a few artists remain -- notably printmaker and former Brown University First Lady Jan Swearer.
Yet 19 on Paper has endured -- largely, I think, for the same reasons that music companies continue to release compilation CDs.
On the one hand, it's a savvy marketing tool for the artists, all of whom have solo careers in addition to their membership in 19 on Paper. On the other hand, it's a great way for the public to sample a wide variety of artistic styles and personalities without having to commit to any one in particular.What's not to like?
FOR THE NEWPORT SHOW, the group's current complement of 16 artists has even come up with a kind of visual overture. As you walk down the hallway leading to the museum's main Ilgenfritz Gallery, you pass by a series of small works, one for each artist, all displayed in the same black-rimmed frames.
The message of diversity within unity couldn't be clearer.
Inside the gallery, the entries range from Marion Wilner's updated versions of illuminated manuscripts to Arlene Wilson's mixed-media kimonos to Kenn Speiser's playful polka-dot prints, which are made by inking pieces of rotary-disc sandpaper, then running them through a press. Other highlights include Riva Leviten's quirky stream-of-consciousness collages and Grace Bentley-Scheck's gritty New York cityscapes.
Though the theme is paper, several of the show's works have at least one foot planted in trendy disciplines such as installation and performance art.
The shrouded figure in Sally Neeld's photographs, for example, could be part of an avant-garde theater group or an ancient religious sect. Barbara Pagh's Stone, Paper, Circle, meanwhile, suggests a primitive dwelling made, beautfully but impractically, from sheets of handmade paper.