ART AS IMPETUS IN RHODE ISLAND
Started as a trailblazing measure for contemporary art in Rhode Island, “Networks” has been an educational platform to convert skepticism into identification, so that art could function as a catalyst for the state’s revitalization. “Networks” segments have regularly aired on Rhode Island PBS, produced by art patron Joseph A. Chazan, M.D. The video documentations by Richard Goulis focus on studio visits with some of Rhode Island’s creative individuals, and each documentary explores inspiration and process of a particular artist and was planned to personalize and demystify art-making.
The final “Networks” exhibition is on view through January 16 at Newport Art Museum’s Cushing Gallery. It features 24 artists who participated in “2015 Networks 2016.” Curator Nancy Whipple Grinnell has organized five “Networks” exhibitions timed roughly at biennial intervals. She curated the current show, which culminates the “Networks” project, prior to her recent retirement from Newport Art Museum.
Chazan and his late wife, Helene, began the journey of collecting artwork in the 1980s, primarily focusing on Rhode Island School of Design-affiliated artists. They have given financial support as well as many gifts of contemporary fine art and craft to the school’s museum. “Networks” artists are rooted in object-ness, and often their aesthetics engage illustrative narrative. These two features are aligned with a maker mentality that significantly informs RISD’s postmodern style.
Ironically, given the number of educators in the group, many “Networks” artists state in their videos that they are disenchanted by intellectualism, prefer ring the ritual of hand-made effort. This perspective is a carryover of master/apprentice applied art structuring, and in terms of Rhode Island evokes its sense of place. “Networks” artists typically relate to form and storytelling. In the final Newport show, audiences can see ceramics, furniture, paintings, photography, printmaking and sculpture as well as stone relief, fabric works and paper works, all situating a post-industrial, post-modern moment in time.