PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Earlier this year, Rhode Island School of Design Museum (RISD) curators Maureen C. O’Brien and Elizabeth A. Williams had a fine time raiding the museum’s galleries and storage vaults, the period rooms of the museum’s Pendleton House and elsewhere to mount the new exhibition “Making It in America.” They gathered 100 objects from the colonial period to the early Nineteenth Century. The subject is a spicy exploration of the entwining of American ambitions and achievements over two centuries and the making of art. It raises the question, “What does the gathering of fine art and fine decoration really imply?” The exhibition is laid out chronologically and with stylistic and societal pairings to draw the visitor from one space to another. The Chace Gallery where it hangs is cavernous, yet spare. Decorative arts historian and designer Thomas Jayne installed panels of historically appropriate patterned and deeply colored wallpaper panels. The result lends historic relevance to each object, enfolds the objects and serves as the perfect foil for the objects against the stark walls of the contemporary gallery.... Read more
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