AN INSTALLATION BY CERAMIC SCULPTOR ARNIE ZIMMERMAN AND ARCHITECT TIAGO MONTEPEGADO
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
224 Benefit Street
Providence, Rhode Island
Through January 3, 2010
AT THE HEART OF RISD'S CANAL-SIDE CAMPUS, AN OLD TROLLEY TUNNEL LINKS THE GROUND LEVEL OF COLLEGE HILL TO ITS LOFTY HEIGHTS. BARNACLE-LIKE CERAMIC GROWTHS FESTOON THE TILE SHELTER OF THIS PUBLIC TRANSIT NEXUS, WHICH HUDDLES IN STARK CONTRAST TO THE CLEAN LINES OF ITS YOUNG NEIGHBOR, THE CHACE CENTER.
Inaugurated in Fall 2008, the Center houses an expansion of the RISD Museum, linked by a glass sky bridge to the Decorative Arts galleries of Pendleton House, built in 1906.
Arriving by escalator at the museum’s third level main gallery with this stratified urbanity on my mind, I am confronted with a grid marked in white tape on the polished concrete floor. Rising from the grid are three squat pedestals, each bearing a place identity: Lisbon (Portugal), Leeuwarden (the Netherlands) and Providence. “Inner City,” a modular installation that has grown to include over 180 ceramic buildings and figurines by sculptor Arnie Zimmerman, has visited all three of these cities. In each exhibition venue, the installation has occupied a distinct footprint, thanks to Zimmerman’s collaborator, architect Tiago Montepegado. The installation at the RISD Museum represents the work’s largest iteration to date.
The white tape continues into the 4,000 square foot inner sanctum,
demarcating a tidy, right-angled street grid punctuated by 26 pedestals of
varied height. Large, stoneware edifices, more suggestive of factories than
dwellings, rise from these blocks, their fractured walls bearing the telltale signs of kiln accident or earthquake. It’s an ironic urban plan to find here in New England, where urban arteries skin old cow paths to double back on one-way streets and