Providence Visits Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) : Opportunities Abound in the Aftermath
The paths of two pioneering iconoclasts, both favorite sons of Providence R.I. crossed at the ICA on Saturday. Spalding Gray, the writer and epic monloguist who committed suicide in 2004 provided the roller coaster of words. Buddy Cianci, the two score and more Mayor who propelled Providence into the limelight, was the guest artist in the 5 person show entitled Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell. Gray's widow, Kathleen Russo has stitched together his monologues, stories, unpublished letters and journals into a one act show that moves. Co-conceived with Lucy Sexton the show proves that Gray's work is a delight to hear and feel, even when he is not the presenter. The readers don't attempt to imitate Gray just confirm that his stories have plenty of life yet.
Gray's work carries forward the spirit of Providence's first son, Roger Williams. In 1625 the Puritan theocrats exiled Williams from the Bay Colony for his non-comformist ways. Williams belief that "God is too big for one church" was the ultimate affront of the day. The readings in Stories Left to Tell strike similar bumps in the road. Producers for Johnny Carson's tonight show are troubled when Gray is difficult to package for Johnny's carefully scripted format. The innocent typist of his work finally breaks her silence to caution him that she hopes these tales are fiction otherwise he is "definitely in trouble". A Gray travelogue begins with a walk among some Bowery prostitutes and ends up with a walk back from hard labor at a Hassidic synagogue. Gray looks deeply into the eyes of his newborn and brims over with reverence. It's irony, humor, candor and plenty of heart. You may have a chance to see the show when it gadabouts to other cities. If not the show's readers give hope that you might be able to pull it off on your own. One evening try sitting with your own friends and reading aloud from Gray's epilogues. You may well find yourself both nurtured and entertained by the experience.
After the show Mayor Cianci joked that saturdays are usually his bowling night. The Mayor, a strong supporter of the Arts in Providence, went on to acknowledge the ICA as an important addition to the Boston cultural scene. Mayor Cianci is a strong supporter of the arts both high and low. In 1994 he helped launch Providence's enviro art experience known as WaterFire. Then in 1998 he engineered a cultural exchange with Florence which resulted in rarely seen works from the Uffizi coming to Providence. Stories Left to Tell wrapped in Boston on Sunday but there is still plenty to see at the ICA.
Shepard Fairey who attended RISD has a current exhibit at the ICA . Like Stories Left to Tell Fairey's work has found itself at odds with the letter of the law (Gray's show recounts the author's brief stint in a Las Vegas jail while Mayor Cianci's 21 year tenure was interrupted by legal contretemps in 1998 and 2002) . Boston police put Fairey at center stage in some impromptu theatre of their own last month. As Fairey was en route to DJ his opening night at the ICA he was arrested for tagging/defacing/adorning several Boston sites. Even though Fariey's red white and blue Obama portrait is now part of the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection a Presidential pardon is not expected.
To Fairey his classic tag of Andre the giant atop the word "OBEY" is an experiment in Phenomenology. Ironically Fairey has a Mayor Menino sanctioned Peace Goddess banner hanging on the fortress architecture of Boston city hall. You decide. The Fairey exhibit will be at the ICA until August. The ICA will also conduct a bike tour of Fairey's open air work in Boston and Cambridge on May 17 and June 28th. If you want an armchair tour of outlaw art issues the ICA will host a 5 week course beginning March 19 entitled : Art and LIfe: Icons, Urban Scrawl and Dissent. For readers beyond Boston Metro Shepard Fairey gallery shows will be popping up all year long in D.C., N.Y.C, L.A. London and elsewhere.
Several films are in production about Spalding Gray. Whoopi Goldberg has plans to do a film on Stories Left to Tell. Director Steven Soderbergh also has a film about Gray's life in production that should be out in 2010. Buddy Cianci is already the subject of an Emmy award winning documentary that can be purchased online David Mamet has written a film based on a Cianci chronicle entitled The Prince of Providence. The film is moving into production with Oliver Platt slated to star as Cianci. Robin Williams and Ed Burns are expected to have supporting roles. [Permalink]- by Jay Rogers