EAST PROVIDENCE — I wasn’t expecting an exhibition about the existential peril of the human race to be joyful.
“OddKin,” a gem of a popup show, is in a space behind a dojo on a scrappy industrial street along the Seekonk River here, far from any art galleries, organized by curator Kate McNamara. The title comes from a word coined by ecofeminist scholar Donna Haraway meaning kinship beyond blood and human ties — a non-hierarchical network of caring that embraces all beings.
Jungil Hong’s epic landscape “Secrets of Snake Den Mesa” addresses the dehumanization of a society driven by power and greed. In the collaged screenprint, grimly industrious pale-skinned men in masks apparently run the show, even seeming to process unmasked people through a machine. In an e-mail, McNamara said the artist based the unmasked figures on her Korean American family, and “used their likeness as a familiar aesthetic in which to contrast the dominant (and dominating) white European figures.” It’s a bleak scene, but there’s a chasm in the center of this punishing world that light pours from, with colorful shelters and the prospect of hope and safety.
In painter Benny Merris’s photograph “An Other Another 191,” a painted white arm covered with colorful fronds arcs through white lupines, delicately touching the tip of a budding purple blossom. The sky behind it shimmers as if that gesture, gentle as the flap of a butterfly wing, has set off a chain reaction.
That magical interconnectedness hums throughout the gallery. Apfelbaum made “Stacked Animals” as she grieved her friend, artist Tony Feher, who died in 2016. The painting is simple: animal outlines drawn with easy gestures in spray paint on an old bedsheet, with a tag on the corner reading “$5, full bed.” At once sad, cozy, and playful, it celebrates love as it expresses loss.
Ceramicist Judd Schiffman’s eerie, endearing wall sculpture, “The Self That Touches All Edges,” features Mothman, a moth/human hybrid that dozens of people claimed to see in Point Pleasant, W.Va., in the 1960s. Here, Mothman embraces a tree with human eyes, and both convey the awkward willingness of nascent love.
“OddKin” doesn’t deny the terrible state we’ve gotten ourselves into. Acknowledging the spiritual paucity of ownership and domination, it finds bounty in the smaller sweetnesses of sharing.
Cate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.