From “Moby-Dick” to The O.C., three artists explore the American cultural landscape

The Pizzuti Collection’s most recent exhibit, Visions from India, was a sensory deluge—a sword swinging from an archway, a full-size automated stick figure, a pack of skeleton dogs encased in red acrylic boxes. By comparison, the gallery’s newest pair of exhibitions feels reserved, quiet, and especially at its outset, minimal. It begins, appropriately, with the early prints of Frank Stella, an American artist whose work inspired museum founder Ron Pizzuti to begin researching contemporary art more than 40 years ago.

“Frank Stella is a really important figure in the Pizzuti Collection,” says curator Greer Pagano during a preview of the exhibition, set to open to the public Friday, Nov. 17. Stella is also a preeminent figure in the modern art world at large—an American master, Pagano says—and he’s still active today at 81 years old.

In Lines/Edges: Frank Stella on Paper, the gallery displays more than 20 of the artist’s works from the Pizzutis’ personal collection. The tour begins with the top floor, where several pieces from Stella’s first foray into printmaking hang just inside the room. These early works are basic geometric shapes in black and white, simple and stark. “What you see is what you see,” Pagano says, quoting Stella, a father of the minimalist movement.

Over the course of his displayed works, Stella’s style shifts and expands, moving into combinations of geometric patterns that form more complex shapes, using increasingly vibrant colors and requiring more and more processes to complete the intricate prints. By the time Stella reached the series called Moby Dick Deckle Edges, represented by nine large pieces at the Pizzuti Collection, his art had become a psychedelic orgy of colors, shapes, designs and references, in some cases practically spilling over the paper’s edges. The exhibit of his work reads like a novel begun by Ernest Hemingway and completed by Tom Wolfe.

The gallery’s second show, Pair: Glen Baldridge & Alex Dodge, is the inaugural exhibition in a planned series that will compare two artists from Ron and his wife Ann’s trove. The 30 works on display come mostly from the Pizzutis’ personal collection, with a few others on loan. These two artists concurrently attended the Rhode Island School of Design and now share a studio space in Brooklyn.

Unlike Stella, whose work is largely abstract and doesn’t feel rooted in any particular moment, most of Baldridge and Dodge’s works are inextricably of here and now. There are vandalized dollar bills, computer viruses, iPhones, Michael Jackson’s glove and U.S. flags, like the ones by Dodge in the lead photo. The artists reference social media, suburbanization, stoner culture and the concealing of identities and secrets, and they are both prone to including dark humor in their works. Their juxtaposition creates interesting parallels and intersections in style and subject, and their combined perspective takes stock of a strange decade in America.

“It is that proximity that I hope will cause conversation,” Pagano says.

Tonight, Thursday, Nov. 16, the Pizzuti Collection will host its Pacesetters After Hours event, which welcomes the community into the gallery for free to view the art and enjoy refreshments. Both exhibitions run until April 29.