Intelligent design?


Walking into the new Annabeth Rosen show at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery downtown, I quickly ran through thoughts of viscera and brains, and began to realize that it was more akin to taking orbit within a linear galaxy. Here was a small group of ceramic planetoids; like our galaxy, each one part of a larger whole, but nevertheless wholly their own bulbous selves. In fact, partly because many of them were shallowly elevated on stubby feet, and all topped with some larger single motif or assemblage, they brought to mind ancient Hebrew cosmology: a footed foundation, which, bowl-like, holds the seas; rimmed by land, which pillars up the firmament all around, from which the stars hang, jewel-like.

Each one of these microcosms is a delightful hybrid of the biological and the technological. Hard-edged, extruded shapes, and softer ringlets of worm-pilings are all balled up like an escaped, writhing ramen noodle dish, topped with those more definitive shapes or motifs, suggesting such things as creamy porcelain balloons, arched cement porpoises or barbells, and mutant kohlrabi. Here and there the mostly dun, brown and white glazes are punctuated with painted striping, dots or other purposeful accent. This causes one to wryly wonder, is this a sign of intelligent design on these little planets? Perhaps.

Thinking planetarily of these sculptures made even more sense upon seeing shots of Rosen's studio, shared with me by John Ollman, gallery director. There was the creator, spinning out one after the other of her asteroids into the macro-universe of her studio; stack upon stack, row upon row of accumulated semi-orbs, accompanied by scores of wall-hung works on paper. Here each part of the creative process seemed yet another step in a series of elemental increases: from clay molecules, on to wet ceramic shapes - then a detour of purposeful artifice - and finally on to this curated, galaxial collection.

Through June 10th
Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, 1616 Walnut Street, Suite 100, Philadelphia, PA

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