Notes from Wunderground

In the mid-1990s, fueled by cheap rent and the local art school, the crumbling warehouses of Providence, Rhode Island, birthed some of the most exciting art and music in the country. “It just sort of exploded here, and it exploded on and off for the last ten years,” says Brian Chippendale, drummer in the noise-punk band Lightning Bolt and a founder of Fort Thunder, a former mill colonized by artists.

For the RISD Museum’s current exhibition Wunderground: Providence, 1995 to the Present curators gathered a comprehensive collection of 2,000 posters and flyers, and commissioned eight artists to create a conceptual village inside a double-height gallery space. The irony of building ersatz homes while their own are under threat from encroaching shopping malls is not lost on them. “Providence, like every city, is in this weird wrestling match,” says Chippendale, who is being forced to move this year—not for the first time—to make way for development.

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