This spring marks 250 years since Brown University’s founding, and in honor of the semiquincentennail, the school’s David Winton Bell Gallery and the Department of Visual Art have collaborated to bring six distinguished alumni back for a series of solo exhibitions celebrating their College Hills roots and notable contributions to the arts. The gallery’s first major alumni show will be divided into two installments, with the first opening on February 15 and featuring work by Dawn Clements (graduated 1986), Paul Ramirez Jonas (graduated 1987) and Kerry Tribe (graduated 1997). “We wanted each exhibition to have a diversity of media,” says gallery curator Alexis Lowry Murray on the artist grouping, emphasizing that the show is curated around the totality of all six artists. Regardless of their choice of mediums, Murray notes that all of the alums are “conceptually rigorous in their work,” a trait no doubt linked to their time on campus in the Creative Capitol.
Dawn Clements’ sumi ink and ballpoint penned interiors are exquisite in their melodrama and intricacies. Often starting small and growing a work to fill an entire wall or gallery, Clements builds her expansive panoramas by quilting together paper panels, creating a kaleidoscopic collage of space that wrinkles and overlaps. “As I move between the mundane empirical spaces of my apartment and studio, and the glamorous fictions of movies, apparently seamless environments are disturbed through ever-shifting points of view,” says Clements of the process and effect. Her work often revisits Hollywood films from the 1940s and 1950s, exploring and embracing the ways in which settings frame the way we understand a story. Crediting an early interest in “how still-life painting could express human presence through absence,” Clements uninhabited spaces speak volumes, giving all new meaning to the idea of if these walls could talk. Clements has kept her Providence ties strong, and is currently a painting critic at RISD.
Paul Ramirez Jonas may consider himself “merely a reader of texts,” buthis work leads the contemporary dialogue on the ways in which people relate to art and public spaces. Finding inspiration in everything from a musical score to a footpath, Jonas interprets these ‘texts’ and translates them into a new medium, ranging from sculpture and video to performance and photography pieces. “In my artworks, what looks like invention is but re-enactment, and what seems to be exploration is but walking in someone else’s footsteps,” says Jonas. One of his works included the Bell Gallery exhibition promises to particularly resonate with the Brown and upper East Side community. In The Commons, Jonas invites viewers to pin notes to a cork replica of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, a bronze copy of which has stood prominently overlooking Thayer Street from behind Brown’s Sayles Hall since 1908. Both based on the original work of art honoring the Roman Emperor, Jonas’ interactive reinterpretation questions the role of public monument both then and now.
Rounding out the first installment is a show of Kerry Tribe’s video explorations of memory and it’s subjectivity connected to science, culture and time. “Memory does something funny to time, which we are accustomed to thinking of as linear and progressive,” says Tribe. “When we remember something, we bring itback to life.” It is these moments of reliving memories and varied interpretations and disconnects that Tribe aligns, allowing the viewer to experience differing versions of reality woven together in a way that challenges perception. Tribe’s large-scale video installations not only uniquely utilize the medium of film itself, but explores its implications with regar to memory and the mind. Like all effective contemporary artists, Tribe puts a new spotlight on old questions, and does so in a way that is anthropological and engaging.
The second installment of Brown University’s 250th Anniversary Alumni Exhibition will feature Sarah Morris, Robert Reynolds and Taryn Simon. The Bell Gallery is also planning a summer show highlighting work of alumni who have chosen to stay and create in Providence. “We recognized that we could do a lot more (alumni exhibitions),” Murray said, on the fruits of the curatorial research for this exhibition and exciting potential for additional upcoming alumni shows.
The first installment of Brown University’s 250th Anniversary Alumni Exhibition runs February 15 to March 30 at the David Winton Bell Gallery. Opening hours are Monday – Friday from 11am– 4pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1pm–4pm. 64 College Street, Providence. 863-2932.