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Swapmeet at the Icebox: Coooool


The idea for Swapmeet, a painting show at the Icebox Project Space, came about when two friends, one an MFA student at Tyler School of Art and the other an MFA student at RISD, thought it would be cool do do an exchange show between the two programs. Well it is a very cool idea.

And the RISD component of the swap, now on view until March 23 in the city’s most glam art spot, is a cool show.

The works by the 20 RISD students (both first and second year MFA’s) look pretty great. All the works are aware of the global art conversations going on and many of them could could hold their own at the dinner table. Ideas at play include: abstraction that has some figuration in it; figure works that are quite abstract; cut foam “paintings” and works that have sculpey-like outcroppings. Cartoons will be with us always, as will abstraction. Signs and symbols, ditto. Most surprising to me is the number of small to tiny works. Small is beautiful and here, small turns out to be a good strategy for a hall almost big enough to hold an international art fair.

I zeroed in on several works that are va-va-voom lovely or seem to advance a thread of contemporary art that I’m particularly interested in: critiques of the present, something we’re sorely in need of and a place where art can give voice to our collective frustration with our world of war and eco-disaster.

Ginny Casey

Ginny Casey‘s lush and lovely Finger Trap, an oil on canvas, reminds me of Aaron Williams’ flesh-invoking abstractions. This planet of flesh is set in a cosmic space which makes it all the more eerie. Instead of benign craters on the moon, these bright red craters are like worm holes that may lead who knows where. Disease is evoked with the lesions, and with the soft, over-ripe bulbousness of the shape. I would have liked to see another work by this artist to see where the thoughts are going.

Blade Wynne

More cosmic thoughts, this time in small packages, in Blade Wynne‘s two paintings, titled Orbit. The left work seems to be an ur-planet made of hot dogs in their buns and steel I-beams. And the god-like bearded character who is vomiting a rainbow is one conflicted dude. Rainbows are happy! So they are not to be vomited out. While I don’t assume anything, I would say that these works come from a larger narrative stream. Whether the creation story is the myth being told is not clear but it works for me. These are not obvious critiques of culture but ideas about overconsumption and unhealthiness of planet and person sit on the works.

Nadia Ayari

Nadia Ayari‘s Re-election, an oil on canvas, with its obvious references to Philip Guston (the color, the truncated body parts, the political content) owes much to the 20th Century master. The work is painted beautifully and while I could have done without the jail of fingers in the background, on the whole, I find it encouraging that a young painter would attack a political subject straight on and come up with something so good.

Ricky Allman

Ricky Allman‘s Different doom, happier children, acrylic and ink on canvas, creates a dystopia of architectural space that seems to be a city with all parts connected and with no place of escape. Small windows in the sub-basements show what looks like raging fires. There’s an off-color rainbow spewing out of a window on top. And the whole thing’s colored in fleshy pinks, battleship grey and institutional green. Did I mention the brown-black sky and the two ominous castle-like structures…enemies or friends, who can say, in the background? Wow. This is hell for sure. A passionate work couched in cool colors, the piece spoke to me of the present, past and future. Something visionary and architectural and dystopic reminds me of Lebbeus Woods‘ great architectural visions. The pale colors remind me of Chris Ware‘s also dystopic architectural and human visions.

Cassie Jones

Cassie Jones‘ eye candy made of cut foam sheets = very much fun.

I photographed the entire show and have it at flickr. Go see it in person, though. It looks good and it will show you how small things can hold the wall in the huge space. Show’s up to March 23. Gallery hours, Wed-Sat, noon-6 pm. By the way, the Tyler part of this exchange already happened up at RISD. Anybody have any pix of that show online so we can see how the home team fared in Rhode Island?