Before I went to see Margery Amdur’s wall assemblages in Amass at Projects Gallery, I saw a few images of the work — made with untold numbers of cosmetic sponges — on the gallery’s website. The works photograph beautifully, and in person, they live up to these images. They’re intricate, with each cosmetic sponge working to build a complex form. Layered with dry pastel, each sponge is filled with rich, saturated color. With their organic quality, the wall assemblages recall rock formations and coral reefs. In more simple constructions, they’re building blocks and have a child-like exuberance.
Able to hold pigment and keep a uniform shape, it’s not surprising that the artist saw cosmetic sponges as a potential material. You can even imagine her coming to this realization while applying makeup in the morning and seeing the residue. There’s a sensual quality to Amdur’s work knowing that each cosmetic sponge has been touched and laboriously covered with pigment. When assembled together, the group of different shaped sponges become complex organic structures.
The artist previously expressed an interest in kitsch, creating work based on Paint-By-Numbers kits and using non-traditional materials. This work with sponges can be seen in this same vein. While there is an appeal to seeing humble materials transformed, it’s the sensual relationship to touch that is more interesting.
Two studies for her public art project at SEPTA’s Broad and Spring Garden Station are also on view. From the studies, it is apparent that Amdur is an artist deeply interested in materials, experimenting with different kinds of mark-making. Like the wall assemblages, Amdur’s public art also references natural forms. Her SEPTA project, vibrant and beautiful, adds life to the drab subway station. Both the Septa project and her work with cosmetic sponges are signs of an artist with an aesthetic sensibility and commitment to process. Amass is at Projects Gallery until September 29.