FRAMINGHAM — Some colors are more culturally loaded than others, with pink high on the list. Pink translates as femininity and girliness, affectation and artifice, tenderness and innocence. It’s “Pink Flamingos,” the movie, and pink flamingos, the lawn ornament. It’s a color that can be imbibed (pink gin, pink lemonade, Pepto-Bismol), chewed (bubble gum, cotton candy), and stood on (Bermuda beaches). It can be listened to (Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac,” the Band’s “Music From Big Pink”) or read (Carrie Fisher’s “Surrender the Pink”).
Clearly, this is one color that’s food for thought. As Kay Thompson sings in “Funny Face,” “Think Pink!”
Lisa Kessler’s exhibition “In the Pink” could as accurately be called “Rethink Pink!” The show runs through June 15 at Danforth Art. It’s zesty and playful without being at all unserious. Perfectly aware of the many cultural associations the color has, Kessler is no less aware of the pointlessness of being heavy-handed about them. So even as she acknowledges the associations she does indirectly, unpredictably, or both.
“In the Pink” consists of 19 color photographs. As you might expect, a certain red-related hue figures in all of them. Some of the subject aren’t surprising: dolls, neon signs, pillows, and cakes. Some are: a football locker room, a picket fence. Some manage to be both. The dress in “Bridesmaid” is pink (so far so good). The person wearing it is a guy with a hairy chest (huh?). Simultaneously meeting and defeating expectations is what “In the Pink” is all about.
The show is a theme and variations in which the variations are varied enough almost — almost — to obscure the theme. That’s a tribute to how widely Kessler ranges in tracking down manifestations of pink and how energetically she presents the fruits of tracking. After a while, pink simply becomes just another way of looking at the world: the color being that ubiquitous, thanks to Kessler’s doggedness, and world being that varied.
Kessler’s pursuit extends beyond image to text. “In the Pink” includes a binder of pink-related passages from an impressive, and impressively diverse, group of writers who have had something to say about the color. Some of the names on the list may be even more unexpected than that pink locker room: Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Saul Bellow, William James, Langston Hughes, Sarah Vowell. Andy Warhol isn’t unexpected. “Love Is a Pink Cake,” Andy said. Of course he did.Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.