Shoshana Wayne Gallery is presenting The Weight of Color by Kathy Butterly, her fifth solo show with the gallery (Santa Monica CA, November 07 – December 24, 2015). When one visits Butterly’s work one is not looking for obvious changes, increases in scale, desertion of the cup, uncomplicated glazing.
Like Ron Nagle she maintains an intimate size, rarely working taller than 6 inches, creating forms that are ripe with eroticism and drawing us into tiny sexual acts with big passions and complex narratives. Each little work is a full blown-affair with Eros.
This is perhaps her finest exhibition to date. The detail, the blending of pearls, vaginal imagery, skin tones, exotic underwear, seductive frills and fancies is Butterly at her most expanded, poetic and lyrical and I have been following her career since her debut exhibition.
Alana Parpal looks at the formal side of her work and states that in this show Butterly is continuing and developing an idea she began for her 2014 New York show, Enter, Butterly builds on the concept of color heeding its visual, physical, and psychological weight.
Paying attention to how color works in each piece, Butterly thinks of herself as a “collector of color” and explores how each hue relates to the other, the tensions that are created between colors and the ways in which they become equal.
The sixteen ceramics that comprise The Weight of Color are each, Parpal reminds us, intricate assemblages of multiple narratives and personal moments. Every crease, fold, frill, and ruffle has a purpose beyond aesthetic delight for they create small spaces where color can be collected giving each piece a unique personality.
The unexpected twists, turns and appendages in each sculpture are the result of Butterly returning again and again to a piece, bringing to it new experiences sometimes over the course of a year and a half. This was the case with Middleclassiness, which the gallery sees as her most complex work to date (we are not convinced but is elaborate). It resembles a Rorschach test—almost symmetrical, half green with white crackle and half yellow divided by a green middle with wild limbs.
For Butterly the ways in which color can and does work is crucial and her conceptualization of color lends itself to the idea that color is a character in narrative.
My personal pleasure was in seeing the drawings. I have lived with a wondrous biomorphic work on paper (a perambulating pink slug maybe?) by Butterly. I acquired this at an auction for a SITE Santa Fe benefit the year after I arrived in this town. It’s been a source of pleasure ever since and her new drawings are exciting with a coulee of melting color.
The last word is the installation, which I thought was as was drearily uniform as a military graveyard, ignoring the works’ delicacy and scale. But once that thought came to mind I began to see them as tiny floral tributes on the graves of heroes. I am not sure this improved anything, but gave me a manufactured pleasure in being in the space.
If you are new to the work of the successful New York artist, here is some biographical information: Kathy Butterly received her MFA from UC, Davis and her BFA from Moore College of Art, Philadelphia. She has exhibited extensively and her work can be found in numerous museum collections including, MoMA, New York, NY; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga, NY; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; MFA Boston, MA; and the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX among many others.
Butterly has been the recipient of prestigious awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship Award (2014), the Moore College of Art & Design Visionary Woman Award (2013), the Smithsonian American Art Museum Contemporary Artist Award (2012), and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2011). The artist lives and works in New York.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of cfile.daily.
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