Interior Space: The 76th American Annual Exhibition

Newport Art Museum, Published October 1, 1988

Take a relatively static theme- interior spaces – and put twenty-six unstatic artists to work in a variety of media, and you come up with this lively exhibition. From the ethereal, Hooper-esque interior painting of artists like William Grainge and Marcia Lassar, to the imaginative creativity of such artists as Sandra Pirie, David Judelson and Ilana Manolson, this show succeeds in re-energizing a traditional and somewhat tired subject.

Manolson and Judelson took the spotlight with an exhibition signature piece entitled Both Sides. The artists combined their talents to create a flattened, quirky environment – a European alleyway building – through a series of hinged panels on which the interior and exterior scenes are painted. The piece invites you to explore it inside and out, and from certain vantage points you can look from the outside in to see a series of rooms through a window.

Sandra Pirie, by the way of a cartoonish, flattened room, blown apart, suggests that our interior environment is as fragile as out lives. Her acrylic on foamboard wall hangings attaches checkerboard linoleum to a wall, a ladder and misshapen window; the whole room askew yet strangely neat. The overall effect is strangely semi-surreal and lyrical, suggesting that we might all be living in a carnival funhouse.

Manolson’s similar pastel collage, When the Roof Blows, the Sky’s the Limit, scales life down to a size where you can get a better grip on it. In the humorously quirky piece, she suggests that you never quite know when things might be blown apart, but that fear is more frightening then fact.

The exhibition avoids uniformity with the inclusion of such works as those mentioned above, along with pieces such as John Devaney’s semi-abstracted underwater scene and Joseph Norman’s huge, vertical death dream. But the main force of Interior Scenes emanates from the finely rendered oil paintings of a narrative kind by artists such as Grainge, Bryan Davagian, Jemison Faust, Jacqueline Lima, Suzanne White and others.