GoLocalProv | AS220 Galleries return with strong shows

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Wednesday March 16, 2022

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Established in 1985, AS220 is one of Rhode Island’s most important cultural landmarks. Its properties in downtown Providence offer event venues, apartments, art studios and much more. AS220 Galleries host regular exhibitions, bringing the institution’s unvarnished and uncensored philosophy to the visual arts. Recently, these showrooms went on a winter break. Now reopened and with powerful new exhibitions, the AS220 Galleries showcase the rich diversity their programming brings to the local cultural scene.

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The current exhibitions of AS220, which can still be seen until March 26th, are worth a visit. While AS220 offers a range of galleries, its twin spaces at 93 Mathewson Street feature a range of works, all of which can be enjoyed at the same time. An exhibition entitled Voices Speaking Loudly in its project room highlights bright and fun paintings by Two Thangs, and in the adjacent reading room, a selection of affordable works from the organization’s Flat File project encompasses a cross section of artistic talent from a talented group of creatives .

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Two Thangs is the artistic brainchild of artist Matthew Brennan IV. Founded in Seattle in 2015, Brennan has since relocated the project to Boston before moving back to Providence in 2020. The foundation of the works created by Two Thangs is conversation. Brennan joins forces with collaborators to fuse two chosen pop culture references into one cohesive work of art. A wry sense of humor is immediately apparent in the paintings on display in the AS220 exhibition. Themes range from Golden Girls and Doctor Who to a character from The Sopranos mixed up with a Pez dispenser.

While the subject may be humorous, the techniques used to create the realized works are expert. Brennan’s use of color is both purposeful and illustrative. Vividly executed lines bring out contrasts between characters and environments that make for bold visual statements. Also thrown in is a painting on black velvet and another on a toilet seat cover as a bonus. A collection of prints of past and completed Two Thangs projects is arranged on one wall in the shape of the eggplant emoji. As an exercise in creativity, Two Thangs’ work shows how far a simple idea can be pushed and pulled to create something entirely new. The show exemplifies the kind of pure creativity that AS220 aims to encourage.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

A selection of works from the organization’s flat file project is on display in AS220’s reading room, an intimate compartment adjacent to the project room. While Two Thangs’ Project Space show showcases a more unified artistic vision, the second show on Mathewson Street highlights some of the broader talent pools connected to AS220.

The flat file project primarily offers inexpensive works on paper. A six color screenprint entitled ’13 Tides’ by Priscilla Carrion is beautifully detailed and full of interconnected graphic elements. “Fancy Blue Flowers”, a watercolor by Caitlin Cali, offers something completely different. In cool tones, Cali explores organic shapes. Alongside these works is a triptych of subtle and beautiful photographs by Madison Emond. These images were created with Quahogs modified for use as pinhole cameras. A graduate of Bard College, in addition to being an active artist, Emond is also the Membership Coordinator of AS220 Industries.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

While the shows on Mathewson Street are captivating, they’re not the only exhibits coming to AS220 this month. At the Main Gallery at 115 Empire Street, AS220’s teenage apprentices will be featured in Alignment, a show focused on mental health and astrology awareness. At the Resident Gallery at 131 Washington Street, Ryan Dean and Madison Emond organized a group show by AS220 residents and members entitled Flora & Fauna.

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The current exhibitions represent a small sample of what AS220 Galleries bring to the table. According to AS220’s website, in 2019 the galleries presented 70 exhibitions featuring 129 artists, 79 of whom were first-time exhibitors. This is a truly remarkable art book.

While the organization’s current shows end on March 26, new shows are just around the corner. On Saturday April 2nd, AS220 will present work by Jacques Bidon in its Aborn Gallery, an exhibition with Roberta Uhlman in his project space, and in its main gallery, No Place to Call Home, an investigation into housing insecurity and homelessness in Rhode Island by Cityside and The Visual Arts Program students at Wheeler School. With so much to see on the AS220 there is no excuse for locals or visitors to miss out on an exciting and ever-changing selection of original and dynamic works of art.

The AS220 Galleries are open to the public Thursday through Saturday from 12pm to 5pm daily. The galleries can also be visited by appointment. Admission is free, masks are currently mandatory. Visit AS220.org for more information and to schedule a visit.

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