Elizabeth Levine’s exhibition of works at ILLE Arts, Amagansett, New York (June 7 – 24, 2014) came from a series of pieces entitled Kabloom! It suggests explosions and that is what the artist delivers. But they’re not the kind of detonation that requires dynamite, rather they harness nature’s eruptive fecundity. The forms are powerful, plants blossom vigorously but with a little violence and with the vivid color one usually finds in poisonous plants and snakes. You will not find a shrinking violet in the group.
The forms divide into wall-mounted reliefs and self-standing sculpture.
I was most fascinated by the framed wall pieces for several reasons. One was the symbiotic relationship between frame and ceramic. They mirror each other in surface, (one paint, the other clay) but they contradict form-wise which creates an elegant tension. The frame is urban, regular, geometric, standardized and provides an objective arena in which the ceramic component–rural, irregular and organic–can writhe thirstily and thrust.
The combination of the protruding form, scale, color and the demanding Pop sensibility reaches out intrusively from the wall into one’s private space and demands attention, which is just a little too aggressive and disturbing in a Little Shop of Horrors context. And this sense of polychromatic danger, of toxic, tropical beauty is important because it takes away the risk of the work seeming too decorative, or worse, cute.
In looking at the spacious installation on light wood tables it occurred to me that the the self-standing work has greater potency within a cluster. There is a looseness to the form that enjoys company. While I am the last one to suggest grouping (it’s become the tiredest cliche in ceramics), it benefits the obvious garden metaphor. It has vigor and supports the sculpture’s dialogue in a way that suggests growth and, yes, little explosions.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Elizabeth Levine, Kabloom VIII, 2011, earthenware, glaze, wood, milkpaint, acrylic
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