“Adventure Bound” is the most recent offering from ceramic sculptor Pavel Amromin. This series could be described with a variety of singular terms: cute, naked, vulnerable, lush, polychrome, intoxicating, excessive, disquieting, and unnerving. Amromin covers the dark ground of human nature with a layer of Rococo sugar, presenting humanity and the nature of war palpably. The figurine format is an unavoidable lure to the viewer, drawing one in to be confronted by the underlying subtext. Amromin points a finger at the ever-present human ability to gloss over darker truths as we continuously exhibit a predilection to excuse complicity. He rebukes the idea that art has the ability to effect significant change, citing insufficient and inconsistent historical precedent as evidence. Yet he persists in the role of the maker, as recorder of human deeds, gaily reflecting the darkness within us.
Amromin utilizes the idea of the boy/soldier manifested as a wee pup. As a visual metaphor, the pup represents an entity full of excessive energy and so in need of an alpha leader that he willingly takes on various guises. The boy soldier is simultaneously capable of great bravery and great evil. Each individual character wants so desperately to be a contributing part of the collective they climb into unmanageably large boots, heading off to an adventure they are not fully equipped to comprehend.
Color is used to cloak acts of atrocity, making them initially more palatable. Further reflection exposes the true role of color in Amromin’s work-as an indication of acts of horror. This accusatory color is evidenced in works like Kiss Me, where only one boy is victimized. Saccharine polychrome beguiles the viewer with a boys-will-be-boys melody. And yet, as a homogenous entity, each aggressor is interchangeable with the victim at any point in the adventure. Each character is oblivious to the consequences of their actions. They are ignorant innocents. It is only after each boy soldier experiences a personal loss that the color drains dramatically out of them, as in Purple Heart: Allegorical Figure. The flowery Rococo pedestals take on a somber war memorial perspective. The consequences of the action must come to bear on an individual boy soldier before he is transformed into a stark white ghost, a memorial of what once was.
War wrapped in feminine ornamentation subverts traditional masculine morality. Where conquering heroes and protectors might become buffoons in the hands of some, Amromin creates pointed ironies. The work is a melange of Rococo and Modernist sensibilities. Although, contrary to the visual Rococo reference, the work does not condone excess or celebrate the profane. Neither does the work aim to modify behavior through a moral allegory. As a passive interpretation, the work is a reflection of the frightening ability packaging can have on consumer perception. The most active interpretation finds the work performing as a warning beacon-one society has always been aware of and yet consistently fails to heed.
So is Amromin just a mirror or is he exorcising ghosts? Is he Kollwitz or is he Daumier? Whatever the conclusion, the work is polarizing and the ideas raised by the boy soldiers either stay in the periphery of the viewers’ minds, or make them contemplate their contributions to the problem.
Our conversations these days seem peppered with ideas of change and yet contemporary and politically relevant artwork remains ineffective if it continues to be removed from the general population. Every artist has their own prerogative regarding what role and what truth they want their work to reveal. Amromin makes objects worth consideration around the dining room table as well as the war room table. However, this is not politically motivated work preaching to the choir, this is absolutely a bipartisan reflection and no one looks very good in Amromin’s mirror. I, for one, would call for more public displays of objects and images that generate discussion if we are indeed a nation of “change” and moving forward. Amromin doesn’t intend for the work to have such lofty goals, but the boy soldiers might have the capability.
Pavel Amromin currently is an adjunct professor at Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Florida. To see more of his work, see annnathangallery.com.
the author Jill Foote-Hutton is chair of the art department at East Central College in Union, Missouri. For further information, see jfhstudio.com.