Wild, raw and human: Children of the Clay explore the visceral and delicate in ‘Think Pink!’

Think Pink!

Through April 9, Public Space One—229, Free

Think Pink! at Public Space One. April 6, 2022. — Jason Smith / Little Village

Before I entered the current show at Public Space One’s 229 Gilbert gallery, the following cultural references came to mind: my favorite childhood t-shirt, neon pink circa 1991, with fringe across the front; Aerosmith’s “Pink” followed by Janelle Monáe’s “Pynk”; Victoria’s Secret’s athleisure lingerie; and Pepto Bismol disks eaten after a bad egg on a clandestine trip in 2019 and a bad Big Mac last year.

Think Pink!, from the University of Iowa’s Children of the Clay, touched on all of these in one way or another.

The color, as the exhibition description notes, “is the most difficult color to achieve in a glaze.” It is perhaps this technical difficulty, in addition to the juxtapositions of texture, colors, subject matter and gut reactions, that make this show a sensual delight. Though the galleries don’t have overt themes, the west gallery, for me, elicits social reactions, whereas the east gallery elicits physical reactions. This is not, however, a strict binary by any means.

West Gallery

Andrew Casto’s “Ice Bucket for a Warming World” is a large bowl covered in thick glaze that appears to melt. The grays, pinks, green, and gold reference molten earth, melted ice cream and the haphazard ways children mix paint, almost like watching small- and large-scale ruin through a static, solid object. It’s beautiful and gross, and I love it.

Janiece Maddox’s wall installation “monkeys!” captures wild, playful cutesiness. Four wall-mounted rectangular pastel pink slabs are carved with monkeys and children. The wall has neon pink drawings that include a dinosaur, rainbow, cross, pyramid with eye, dollar sign and math equations that seemingly make no sense. The work contains mysteries: of life and childhood, of the kiln and glaze.

Abbey Peters’ sculpture “Sitting Pretty, Collecting Dust” consists of an upright tombstone-like box and eight horizontal compartments filled with ashy material. While looking at it, I ruminate on time, women, femininity, social expectations, stagnation and loss. Here, pink feels irksome.

East Gallery

Think Pink! at Public Space One. April 6, 2022. — Jason Smith / Little Village

In juxtaposition with social discourses, the objects in the east gallery take on a more visceral, biological quality. Alyson Hoelvoet’s “Roseate” is a lampshade of a very delicate pink, almost cream. Though it looks demure, look under the shade: the lightbulb puts off a magenta, almost erotic light.

Sydney Ewerth’s “Pillow Talk/Bubble Pop” is a flat rectangle with multiple pinks, warm and cool, reminding me of a microscope slide, as if the clay revealed cells and tissue, a slice of flesh. This humanness and suspended aliveness continued with Avrill Gratton’s “insides, outsides, and otherwise.” I enjoy this piece so much because it looks like a pile of broken cups dashed with white goo. It signifies many things for me while I reckon with the textural possibilities of glaze and the chemical, primordial magic of clay.

Another iteration of this viscerality is Brant Welland’s “bubblegum boogers ;)” It looks like bits of plastic bottles and styrofoam carryout boxes covered in pink slime. It is a humorous rendering of consumerism and the environmental, chemical and social goo made from waste. The entire show mirrors the very human emotions of individual and collective wonder, disgust, play and delight.

Think Pink! at Public Space One. April 6, 2022. — Jason Smith / Little Village

Benjamin Upchurch’s “Wall Plate” takes pink into the cosmos. It measures approximately 30 inches and is covered in matte and glossy shades, as if earth meets water. The upper left area contains aqua, green and black, reminding me of an eye, or a photograph of a galaxy. It also reminds me that the world is created from chemical reactions between gas, metal and mineral.

Think Pink! is a microcosm of clay and the possibilities of the color pink: wild, raw and human.

PS1 Gallery Hours
Thursday 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Friday 3-6 p.m.
Saturday 12-3 p.m.

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