Houston

Angel Oloshove, The Feminine Mystique, 2015, clay, glaze, 10 1/2 × 7 × 4".

Angel Oloshove, The Feminine Mystique, 2015, clay, glaze, 10 1/2 × 7 × 4".

Angel Oloshove

DEASIL

Angel Oloshove, The Feminine Mystique, 2015, clay, glaze, 10 1/2 × 7 × 4".

On her blog, Angel Oloshove describes her ceramic vessels and sculptures as “babes” and “cuties” (as in “new cuties,” and “I just got these babes fresh out of the kiln”)—and these terms of endearment couldn’t be more apt. Indeed, guilelessness suffuses the eight humble works that were on display in Oloshove’s first solo presentation at Art Palace. Striated with multicolored glazes that blend and bleed in an ombre pattern rather than define and delineate, sculptures such as Soft Fuzz, 2014, and Arc of Jah, 2015, are pillowy and fetchingly awkward. A curvaceous warmth renders these diminutive works—none standing taller than a foot—convivial, while also making plain the artist’s debt to the early work of Ken Price and Judy Chicago. Prior to this exhibition, Oloshove exhibited similarly painted matte works emblazoned with slick-glazed phrases like STAY WET and THE BODY, the terms likely allusions to the erotics inherent to clay’s material condition while adjacently indicative of the medium’s historically feminized craft connotations. The Feminine Mystique, 2015, the title of which explicitly references a key work of second-wave feminist literature, appears to take the iconic shape of a flame, its lavender hue white-hot at the form’s center (and, one presumes, at its figurative core as well).

Pleasures of the flesh are never far from Oloshove’s mind, as evidenced by the exhibition’s title, “Floating Worlds,” a reference to the Edo-period Japanese style associated with urbane diversions such as Kabuki performances and tea ceremonies, and with the companionship of geishas and prostitutes. Oloshove, who spent six years in Japan designing dolls and toys, draws on the coyly erotic connotations of this era and its uniquely Japanese sensibility. Is it then any wonder that a sense of cuteness pervades her work? Almost a decade ago, cultural theorist Sianne Ngai interrogated the qualities of cute objects (“smallness, compactness, softness, simplicity, and pliancy”) and tied them to a limited array of masochistic affective conditions (“helplessness, pitifulness, and even despondency”). Oloshove’s ceramics participate in cuteness’s formal draw, but the artist disregards the signifying aspects of its common cultural avatars. Instead, she draws from celestial and immaterial spiritual sources, and her ceramic objects flirt with representation. One can sense in Tantra Body, 2014, the vague outline of a seated Bodhisattva; Arc of Jah name-checks Rastafarian cosmology. Pele’s Mango, 2015, shuttles playfully between fecund fruit and fireball. Could the title of the latter also be an embedded Tori Amos reference? I would hope so.

Oloshove’s ceramic forms are most successful when they are installed in groups, as the five sculptures nestled in the gallery’s small back room demonstrated. When the objects are viewed together, something approaching seriality emerges. The works’ complementary palettes and the considered, perhaps ritualistic circumstances of their arrangement recall the more synthetic and interactive works of Mariko Mori, to which these bombastic but technologically inert objects might be distant cousins. When isolated, Oloshove’s sculptures all too often coalesce into a singular image, even when there is no direct reference in title or coloration to support this interpretation. Such is the case with Soft Fuzz, which gets its own plinth. Displayed alongside its other suggestively bulbous sisters, it might just become another permutation, and infinitely more generous.

Perhaps it’s neither here nor there, but Oloshove has a healthy side business selling ceramic pipes in boutique stores. And I can’t help but read something of a head-shop aesthetic in these bean-like polychromed objects. John Coplans, writing about the work of Price in 1964, described how the artist “introduces color with such an acute choice it seems almost to shape the form.” This keen observation could perhaps also be applied to the almost hallucinogenic way in which Oloshove deploys color. Such is the way of the babe.

Andy Campbell