Providence, 1995 to the present. The exhibition is conceived by a group of 8 artists: Mat Brinkman, Brian Chippendale, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg, Jungil Hong, Xander Marro, Erin Rosenthal, and Pippi Zornoza.
Providence, 1995 to the present
For the past decade, Providence, RI, has been the site of a radical underground art scene, giving rise to a multi-faceted, unbridled aesthetic that is as distinct as it is influential. This fall, the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design will present Wunderground: Providence, 1995 to the present, an exhibition celebrating Providence’s intersection of art and music.
This watershed exhibition consists of two parts, representing present and past: Shangri-la-la-land and Providence Poster Art, 1995-2005. Organized by Judith Tannenbaum, Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art at The RISD Museum, the exhibition is conceived by a core group of eight artists: Mat Brinkman, Brian Chippendale, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg, Jungil Hong, Xander Marro, Erin Rosenthal, and Pippi Zornoza.
“This exhibition provides an extraordinary window onto a thriving creative world whose art is seldom-seen by mainstream museum-goers," says Tannenbaum. “We hope to honor the non-establishment spirit of this community within the Museum’s walls."
For Shangri-la-la-land the eight artists will construct a sculptural installation especially for the Museum’s soaring 30-foot Main Gallery, transforming it into a fantastic landscape loosely based on the idea of a village. The artists, who work in a range of media including video and film animation, comics, music, puppet theater, and screen-printing, will make a winding path through eccentric buildings and trees, with a 16-foot monster looming above.
Providence Poster Art, 1995-2005 will display, floor-to-ceiling, some 2,000 screen-printed posters—a comprehensive timeline of the signature creative activities of the underground’s last decade. Over 200 artists created these graphic, cartoony posters for off-the-radar venues in which Providence’s mighty “noise" music scene was born. Headsets with recordings of live shows will pepper the galleries.
The posters date back to the summer of 1995, when two RISD students founded the celebrated artists’ collective/rock-show venue, “Fort Thunder," in Providence. The industrial neighborhood of Olneville provided a liberating backdrop for loud music and legendary events. Olneyville became a haven for communal artists’ spaces, offering that ineffable mix of possibility and freedom that breeds truly revolutionary movements.
By 2001, Fort Thunder’s raucous interiors were featured in Nest magazine; soon after, the resident four-artist group Forcefield was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. Chippendale’s celebrated noise-music duo, Lightning Bolt, was touring internationally, and Brinkman’s comic ‘zines were drawing critical acclaim. The Fort itself was short-lived, but its intrepid residents and their Olneyville cohorts persevered in new collective living spaces: notably Hilarious Attic, current site of several former Fort Thunder artists, and the women’s art collective the Dirt Palace.
Judith Tannenbaum was named The RISD Museum’s first curator of contemporary art in 2000. In 2002, she became the Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art, the Museum’s first endowed position. At RISD she has organized Island Nations: New Art from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Diaspora (2004), Betty Woodman: Il Giardino dipinto (2005), On the Wall: Wallpaper by Contemporary Artists (2003), and Jim Isermann: Logic Rules (2000), among other exhibitions. From 1986 to 2000, Tannenbaum served variously as curator, associate director, and interim director at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.
Wunderground will be accompanied by a full-color, illustrated catalogue with a foreword by celebrated artist and designer Gary Panter. Two major texts, written by Judith Tannenbaum and Providence gallerist Sara Agniel, will contextualize Providence’s unique art scene. Artists, musicians, writers, and students who created and witnessed it offer shorter texts providing a kaleidoscopic portrait of a time and place. The catalogue is being produced in collaboration with the award-winning art director Dan Nadel of PictureBox, Inc.
The RISD Museum of Art, a world-class museum in Providence, RI, was founded as part of Rhode Island School of Design in 1877.
The RISD Museum
224 Benefit Street - Providence