In the first public in-person exhibition in 18 months, Brown’s Bell Gallery features artists from RI, Mass.
PROVIDENCE, RI [Brown University] – Brown University’s David Winton Bell Gallery is gearing up to present its first fully public exhibition in 18 months – and it promises to be a sight for sore eyes.
Opening Thursday, September 9, “Arrows of Desire: Harry Gould Harvey IV and Faith Wilding” will feature the work of two influential New England artists who have bonded through mutual love from poet William Blake amid the COVID pandemic -19.
Kate Kraczon, director of exhibitions and chief curator of the University’s Bell Gallery and Brown Arts Institute, said the exhibit will provide a powerful antidote to the tech-driven inner world that many have inhabited since March 2020, when the spread of the novel coronavirus has closed workplaces, in-person gatherings and art exhibitions across the world.
“We’re coming out of a time of screens and flatness and finesse and editing,” Kraczon said. “On the other hand, Harry and Faith’s work is entirely done by hand. The wood is carved. Everything is a bit wobbly and curved. You can see pencil marks and fingerprints in the works on paper. And I think people will be absolutely captivated by this human contact after being stuck in and in front of screens for a year and a half.
Kraczon said the two artists’ pieces – which range from drawings in handmade wooden frames to metal and wax works – embrace the apocalyptic language and imagery of Blake’s work, particularly his epic poem. illustrated “Milton” from the early 19th century. In the preface, Blake condemned the Industrial Revolution and organized religion, offering “arrows of desire” to fight the “dark satanic factories” which he said had ravaged the green and peaceful pastures of England.
More than 200 years later, Harry Gould Harvey IV follows in Blake’s footsteps, creating art that ruminates on the complex legacy of the textile factories and mills of his hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts. At the start of the 20th century, Fall River became one of the world’s largest cotton textile manufacturing centers. At one time, there were over 100 factories in the city, where residents worked long hours for low-wage textiles that would become sheets, curtains, and clothing in the homes of America’s elite – residents. from the Golden Age mansions in Newport to the wealthy and educated classes living in Boston and Providence.
“Her work focuses on social inequalities and the experience of growing up in a post-industrial city in economic difficulty,” Kraczon said.
Today, most of these mills and factories are no longer in operation. Some have been converted into offices and apartment complexes, while others are empty, still soaked in the flammable whale oil that once greased huge machines. From these and other abandoned buildings, Harvey mined wooden beams, metal radiators and more, turning these salvaged materials into art.
Kraczon said that Harvey’s art featured in “Arrows of Desire” includes delicate works on paper framed in elaborate and hand-crafted wood; a series of four sculptures made from century-old industrial heaters, candle-shaped wax structures and bronze; and a solid wood wall piece that reproduces a famous quote by anarchist Emma Goldman in red cast wax: “Ask for work. If they don’t give you a job, ask for bread. If they don’t give you work or bread, then take bread.
The works of Faith Wilding – an influential artist and feminist activist, resident of Rhode Island and visiting scholar at Brown’s Pembroke Center – include watercolors that pay tribute to the women writers, poets and theorists who have influenced her own feminist organization; a series of 10 archival images of Wilding’s radical feminist performances from the 1970s and 1980s, framed in reclaimed wood and handcrafted by Harvey; and the “Flow” installation, in which ink-filled glass beakers sit on wooden plinths made by Harvey.
“Faith has become a mentor and sort of a spiritual guide for Harry over the past two years,” Kraczon said. “When they first met to collaborate on this exhibition, they immediately connected. Now they’re in each other’s studios all the time, texting each other all the time, and they go hiking together.
Kraczon said she hopes the Bell Gallery’s first fully public exhibition since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – and her first since becoming part of the Brown Arts Institute, the university’s center for rigorous artistic creation, scholarship and experimentation – highlights the depth of artistry in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. The curator, who came to Brown from the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in 2019, said she plans to shine the spotlight on local artists in the coming years, one of many. initiatives to attract more students and local residents to the gallery and highlight Brown’s essential role in the visual arts scene in the greater Providence area.
“I want Bell to be a more accessible and attractive destination for everyone,” Kraczon said. “I want the creative communities in the Providence and Boston areas to descend on the Bell for opening nights and events, knowing that the Bell is a space where they can meet their favorite – or soon to be favorite – artists, see provocative shows and connect with one another. “
“Arrows of Desire” opens Thursday, September 9 and ends Sunday, November 28. Entrance and events are always free. The Bell Gallery is open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The gallery will host a conversation with the artists and a reception on Wednesday, September 24 at 5 p.m.