Best of 2017: Art

Henry Horenstein Dolly Parton Newport Art Museum

Best of 2017: Art

It was the worst of times, it was the okayest of times… This year we said hello to a couple of new galleries – Skye Gallery, the food-focused World’s Fair Gallery, the rebooted Providence Photo Arts Center – while bidding farewell to the Latinx-focused Galería del Pueblo, the pop-up Periphery Space, and the gallery/community space 186 Carpenter. Other than that, everything sort of plugged along as usual.

I wrote about 60 art events this year – show reviews, mostly, but also a few artist talks here and there – and these were ten personal favorites. I limited myself to one artist per gallery for the sake of not overthinking this. Also, because I worked closely with him this year, I didn’t include Chicago artist Derrick Woods-Morrow’s exhibition at RIC’s Chazan Family Gallery. (It was very good, though.)

  1. Jerome LaGarrigue – Radiant Silence (RISD ISB Gallery) 

Until this year I didn’t even know there was a public gallery in RISD’s Illustration Studies Building. Enter on the river side and suddenly you’re in one of the city’s nicest art venues. French-American painter Jerome Lagarrigue’s intoxicating portrait series was one of several very good exhibits that happened in the space this year.

  1. Henry Horenstein – Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music (Newport Art Museum)

I had to many words to spill about my love for Henry Horenstein’s work that I wrote this one for Big Red & Shiny.

  1. Forever Fornever (Bannister Gallery at Rhode Island College)

Brightly colored and wildly inventive, this group show collects the work of artists who primarily exist online. I didn’t think that RIC would pull it off; the traditionally underfunded gallery doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to anything technology related.


  1. Pierre Huyghe – Untitled (Human Mask) (David Winton Bell Gallery)

Pierre Huyghe’s fascinating, creepy film features Fuku-chan, a macaque who dons a human mask and wig while waiting tables in a real Japanese restaurant. A Youtube sensation a few years ago, Fuku-chan’s monotonous life is recreated and recontextualized around the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear explosion.

  1. Jen Corace and Jill Colinan: Ruins (186 Carpenter)

I didn’t cover the final show at 186 Carpenter here because I was writing a profile of artist Jill Colinan for Take Magazine. Now the gallery is gone and the magazine just announced that it’s shutting down operations, too. What a dumb year this was.

  1. Deb Sokolow – The Presidents (some of them) (PC–Galleries)

Opening right around Inauguration Day, Deb Sokolow’s wry look at twentieth century history was either a funny look at urban legends or a very real display of the paranoia that comes with great power.

  1. Amy Beecher – Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful Rose! (GRIN)

Rose petals were crushed into the pink carpeting lining GRIN for Amy Beecher’s solo exhibition, a kooky look at the insane, undying TV show The Bachelor, with the artist staging a reading of the show’s inane dialogue. (The exhibit ran before this summer’s gross Bachelor in Paradise scandal.)


  1. Shey Rivera Ríos: La Isla Fantastic or Fantasy Island Church (AS220 Project Space)

Shortly before Puerto Rico was devastated by two hurricanes – you know people there still don’t have power three months later? – island native (and AS220 artistic director) Shey Rivera Ríos put together a gallery installation critiquing predatory real estate development on the island. The exhibit moved to New York in the fall.

  1. Making Her Mark (Providence Art Club) 

The Providence Art Club mounted an ambitious three-month look at the past, present, and future of the club’s membership, beginning way back in the 1870s. A dozen of the club’s earliest members were featured. A supplementary show in an adjacent gallery showed a painting by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who missed its unveiling because she was in Connecticut living out The Yellow Wallpaper.

Schizm Magazine at Periphery Space

  1. Emma Holmes – Schizm (Periphery Space)

During its nine month run, Pawtucket’s Periphery Space presented a solid lineup of exhibits, including the ambitious Crossing Borders, an excellent group show featuring the work of migrant artists. My favorite, though, was a look at the growth of London artist Emma Holmes’s self-published magazine Schizm, which has doubled in size over the course of its nine issues.

Newport Sexx Festival (various); Bradley Wester at Yellow Peril Gallery; Chris Kilduff at The Drawing Room; Anneli Henriksson at Dirt Palace; Sam Duket and Brad Fesmire at Jamestown Arts Center; Kelli Rae Adams at World’s Fair Gallery

You can’t see them all
I can’t always make it to Newport and the South Coast so I missed the big #RESIST show at Van Vessem Gallery in Tiverton, plus Dedee Shattuck Gallery’s exhibition of Young Russian Artists. The same goes for Aquidneck Island, which is too bad because the Hunter Gallery at St. George’s School showed an extensive roster of very good artists: Timothy Nolan, Saberah Malik, Isabel Mattia, and Anna Ortiz among them. Speaking of Newport, genius Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson did a piece at the Newport Art Museum’s annual summer gala. I would have never been able to afford a ticket but I’m still mad that I didn’t hear about it until afterwards.

Let’s pretend it never happened
The Department of Transportation’s neglect and later decision to paint over David Macaulay’s I-95 mural in Providence was really obnoxious. So was DOT Director Peter Alviti’s ludicrous explanation that “this administration is concentrating on fixing things and, in the process, creating jobs.”