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Think Pink: Pretty in Pink at Gray Loft Gallery

Scientists are fond of surprising children with the news that nothing in reality is colored, but instead has color when excited by light. This makes every crayon a small magic wand, applying a liquid prism on whatever they touch.

Three Lost Years photo by YelenaZhavoronkova

But perhaps our first experience of pink comes from something we can’t reach – the sky. One of the signature images in Pretty in Pink at the Gray Loft Gallery reminds us that the sky is where we learn pink is almost pure, ephemeral energy. It doesn’t have nature’s constancy of a field of green or the planet’s umbrella of blue, with one dramatic recurring exception: flowers. In their dazzling variety, flowers have an infinite capacity to capture and shape pink, where we can touch it. Yet they conform to an ebb and flow, a seasonal disappearance, that echoes what we already knew of impermanence in the sky.

Perhaps that is why when we grab pink and fix it in place, it grabs us back. Pretty In Pink’s curating jurors Ann Jastrab, Executive Director of the Center for Photographic Art, and Gray Loft Gallery founder Jan Watten, have taken note of how graphically photographers have either portrayed pink’s capture, or have done it themselves. And the show’s numerous display walls give us a variety of groupings that highlight their differing approaches.

One grouping is mainly about pink’s appearance as contrast: its brightness far greater than the space it occupies, and making that space feel more lit than it is. Another group presents pink in open environments where, used by some anonymous party, it is poised exactly between being arbitrary or aggressive. But a third group is hosting pink as an emotion in imaginary or psychological theaters, while a fourth set is a primer on how femininity traditionally both owns and is owned by pink.

All of those scenes push the impact of deliberately applying pink when some other color would have served a practical purpose – but using something else would have missed the point of having pink’s energy.

One of the most initially eclectic groupings similarly shows pink injecting life into, this time, what might otherwise have felt ordinary or indifferent. We get a clue about the way these pictures work from the electric effect of the wall they are hanging on, painted an intense hue of pink – magenta – the only wall like it in the gallery. Then on cue, a different wall in the show emphasizes pink occurring elegantly through the hand of nature; botany is the decision maker, yet it is as if pink just decided on its own to show up, instantly adding spice.

Finally, some photographers have pictures that are most strongly about the pictures themselves being objects made with pink. In these items, the artists’ edge-to-edge exploration of form and surface texture relies on pink not so much as a subject but as a key element in their graphic design. There is a great comparison, made by being shown next to each other, of how the formal attention can equally hold a garish festivity or a meditative nuance. And of course, it tells us to pay attention to how design works in all of the other pictures in the show as well.

(c) Edie Hoffman

To be clear: none of the many effects above are in any case describing only one way to engage the world of the related image, and the show walls are not rigid about holding one group or another.

In fact, as we look at any given picture among the others, and then look at it a second or third time, we start appreciating how multiple motives coexist in the artist’s creative process for the image, and have reached a point of being balanced, where the photographer is willing to say they’re done.

Show runs Saturday, January 20 – Saturday, February 24, 2024.

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