The 10 ceramic objects in Sharon Engelstein's new show at Devin Borden Gallery aren't placed on shelves lining the gallery's walls as you'd typically expect in a traditional show. Instead, they stand on boxes of Styrofoam arranged at varying heights towards the back of the gallery, all united in their strangeness.
I use strange in the best way possible. These pieces are unlike anything you've seen before, and yet are very familiar at the same time. They are of varying glazes, shapes and materials. There are semblances of feet and ears discernible in some, a pair of glass eyes on two Cyclops-like forms, both of which have stringy hair laid atop bulbous bodies. It's as if combined, they'd all make one freaky human-esque form.
The show, titled "I like that very much a lot" (quick, someone make a Tumblr out of that!), is the latest incarnation of Engelstein's ceramic works and her interest in organic abstraction. They're organic in their shapes, as well as their materials -- primarily clay and wax. Whipped, the wax has an unrefined nature when placed with the smooth, perfectness of the ceramic. Pieces that consist of both of these materials, such as Free Wall and Foot Wall, have this corroding quality, as if the wax is taking over the brick ceramic walls. It's an intriguing dynamic that gives the illusion that the pieces are alive and changing, and not the static dead things that they are and always will be.
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In addition to the creature-like shapes and bulbous forms, Engelstein has made near-functioning structures in ceramic. There are those foot and free walls made done in brick form, as well as sinks and basins. Engelstein messes with their functionality, though; the sink is collapsing upon itself, seemingly bleeding mauve in the process; the basin has the shape of an ear sprouting from it; and the brick walls are unfinished and coated in whipped wax. It's all about form, not function.
Save for that mauve and some yellow on the brick, there's a lot of white in this show - white pieces on top of white Styrofoam against white walls. But rather than losing all the subtlety, the monochromatism only heightens the shape and form of the pieces and their difference materials and glazes. The variety is incredible.
In addition to the 10 ceramic pieces, Engelstein has included two "drawings" in her solo exhibition. Titled Boulders and Curly, they consist of pigment ink on rice paper -- 3-D printouts from the computer system the Houston artist uses to help compose the bulbous and stringy forms. Though they work as standalone pieces, they're also fascinating peeks into the surprisingly high-tech process behind these curious little creatures.
"Sharon Engelstein: I like that very much a lot" at Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main Street, runs now through December 22. For more information, call 713-529-2700 or visit www.devinborden.com.