First, let’s answer the most obvious question about the title of the current exhibition at the Narrows Center for the Arts.
If there are only 15 artists exhibiting works, why is it called “19 on paper?”
In 1986, with the idea of promoting an appreciation of art created on or with paper, a group was formed with a particular mission statement in mind: “to provide a cohesive structure for the presentation of work on Rhode Island artists’ paper”. Nineteen professionals responded to this call, and as a result, the working artists’ collective was called 19 on Paper.
The group quickly expanded beyond the borders of Rhode Island but membership always remained at around 19, sometimes fewer and sometimes more.
The member artists of 19 on Paper work in a number of visual disciplines, including painting, printmaking and sculpture. The show’s title pays homage to the group.
Paper is a medium understood by all. Whether it’s filling in the lines of a coloring book, drawing with magic markers on the inserted piece of stiff cardboard of a men’s dress shirt or the awkward first sketches of an art student’s nude new to a life drawing course, the goal is clear: to make that page something it wasn’t before.
Paper arts include decoupage, papier-mâché sculpture, origami, bookmaking, and the art of papermaking itself. But in this particular exhibition, with one exception, the paper is only a substrate; the surface on which the image manifests, whether with paint, pencil, photography, collage or other two-dimensional methodologies.
The exception is Alma Davenport’s “Whole/hole,” in which a sheet of pristine white paper is mounted on a thin brushed copper panel, suspended from the wall by a triangle of fine-link chain. The word “ENTIRE” is printed on the paper in capital letters. The O is a solid black circle, on which the tiny word “hole” is in white, with a nail protruding from a hole over the hole in the set. Unexpected material choices and playful semantics make it work.
Hiroko Shikashio’s “Square Series” is a large watercolor grid of finely applied colors: ecru, khaki, pale green tea, hints of diluted pink and peach. Although it functions primarily as a study in translucency and color relationships, the thin application of rich black in places suggests cast shadows. It’s easy to imagine it as an aerial view of an urban neighborhood (okay, without streets) or a circuit board for some as-yet-unknown technology.
“She’s Come Undone” by Cynthia M. DiDonato is an abstract female figure rendered in black, white, and red, apparently with diluted inks and/or water-based paints. The title of the work, also that of Wally Lamb’s first novel in 1992, could recall the words of the 1969 hit “Undun”: “It’s too late, she’s gone too far, she’s lost the sun, she’s come undoned…” This Guess Who song was about a girl who dropped acid and fell into a coma. DiDonato’s image involves an emotional denouement, with a bit of that bright red suggesting a displaced heart.
Kendra Ferreira presents a number of intricately detailed colored pencil drawings that are remarkably photorealistic for a medium not often associated with photorealism. His subjects include a stack of Converse sneakers, artichokes, geraniums, stacked teacups and partially unwrapped Tootsie Pops.
Her “Party Favors” feature three shiny candied apples placed on a white serving platter. The precision of detail is such that at just a few meters the eye can be tricked into thinking this is an actual photograph.
With fifteen artists and 91 artworks, there’s plenty to explore. Among the best of the rest: Grace Bentley Scheck’s collographs and aquatints of lower Manhattan, photographs by Cindy Wison and David DeMelim, large watercolor still lifes by Allie Sabalis, and nature scenes by Anne- Marie Gillett, rendered in ink, acrylic tape and hand painted.
“19 on Paper” is on display at the Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan Street, Fall River until March 12.