Curators, perhaps in an effort to justify their many thousands of dollars of student debt, often organize exhibitions around incredibly oblique, obtuse topics. Mission statements become manifestos. Press releases metastasize into swamps of awful jargon. That’s why it was so refreshing to receive the announcement of “Shrink It, Pink It,” a massive, 90-person show at Brooklyn’s Cathouse FUNeral whose only conceit is an allegiance to a color. (Sue Williams isn’t included, but you’d think she might be; her website’s URL is nomorepink.com) I spoke with curator Irena Jurek, who organized the exhibition along with Diana Buckley.
My own knee-jerk association with pink, at this exact moment, is to John Waters and Pink Flamingos—pink as over-the-top kitsch. What resonances does the color have for you, personally?
I’m glad that you mentioned John Waters; Eric Mistretta actually made an incredible installation comprised entirely of pink flamingos! Both as an artist and a curator, I’m drawn to over-the-top kitsch and spectacle. Pink is also a very complex color that contains a lot of cultural connotations. It can represent youth, the body, consumer culture, and even impermanence. I appreciate how unabashedly feminine pink is and my favorite shade of the color is hot pink, since it has such a strength, vitality, and rebellion to it. Hot pink stands out and cannot be tamed; it contains within in it all the power, movement, ferocity, joy, and confusion of being alive. It’s the opposite of the conservative, somber, and funereal black. Christian Lacroix calls black the color of infinity; perhaps pink is the color of the finite.
Did you pick the participating artists and then request that they create a new work in this color? Or were these all artists who you’ve previously seen working with this particular shade?
I actually did both. Artists such as Jocelyn Shipley and Pamela Council have a long and personal history of working and thinking about the color pink. Others had to make something pink since they absolutely didn’t have anything pink in their studios. Something that I thought about when organizing this show, aside from engaging the audience in the expansive breadth and meaning associated with the color pink, was to create an installation comprised of a diversity of mediums.
Upon entering the space, viewers are greeted by Noah Becker’s ET (Rose), which is a vibrantly pink painting of ET smoking a joint. I feel that the fantastical and mysterious quality of the painting sets the stage for the tone of the entire show.
Chelsea Seltzer’s phantasmagorical painting, Somewhere Under the Rainbow, is as seductive as it is unsettling. The dystopian painting depicts the Kool-Aid mascot walking on a sea of Pepto-Bismol, similarly to Christ walking on water, in an ominous field of varying pinks, where a Ninja Turtle, a lone eyeball, Tutankhamun’s faceless headpiece, and a long arm flips off the viewer, all above an upside down rainbow. Combining the language of pop culture and surrealism with a feminist twist, Seltzer delves into the gender associations and varying interpretations ofpink.
Jennifer Sullivan’s Origin of the World (Biological Clock), part-ticking clock, part painting of a wildly-colored vagina, playfully and boldly comments on Courbet’s infamous painting, mortality, and the male gaze. And Molly Weiss’s Freedom (Self Portrait @ 5 am) is a photograph of the artist standing nude on top of the hood of a car with her back turned towards the viewer, surrounded by nature and a picturesque sunrise. It’s a very romantic photograph, embodying a sense of idealism and freedom that I find very invigorating and inspiring. Although the human being is as pink, impermanent, and transitory as the sunrise surrounding her, there is such a beauty and significance in the gesture.
“Shrink It Pink” is at Cathouse FUNeral through February 23 (Saturday and Sundays only, 12-6, other times by appointment.) The opening exhibition is Saturday, Jan 18, all day from 1 to 7pm.