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If there”s one thing that calls to mind the memory of summer days, schoolyard politics, and the days when candy was fraught with emotional as well as gustatory meaning, it”s bubblegum. With its surreal comic wrappers, distinctive smell, and bright pink hue, it”s tied to childhood. Or is it?

That”s what Italian artist and sculptor Maurizio Savini attempts to explore with his sculptures, which are created using an average of 3,000 pieces of bubblegum per piece. But don”t worry — it”s not chewed.

The Emmanuel Fremin Gallery, which houses Savini”s work, describes culture”s fascination with bubblegum: “With a pink pigment as loud, vibrant, and rude as the act of chewing it, there is no doubt this amusing material quickly found its place in modern and contemporary art communities.” The super-fake, super-trendy candy became synonymous with youth culture — pop culture, if you will.

To create these sculptures, Savini and his two assistants collect thousands of pieces of bubble gum squares. Half are pink and half are white. Once unwrapped, heat is applied to make the gum malleable and able to be cut easily with a knife. The softened gum is then applied to a plaster mold.

These sculptures are not solid gum; if they were, they”d be extremely heavy and unstable, and would end up collapsing on themselves. (Savini learned this the hard way, and had to refund sold pieces as a result.) Once the piece is complete, it”s then treated with formaldehyde and antibiotics, preserving it indefinitely. That”s right — these are not edible.

So why bubblegum, of all materials? Several reasons, actually. For one thing, Savini is fascinated by the bright, slightly sickening pink color. “Pink represents artificiality,” he explains. “When you see it, you associate it with a fake world.” Gum is associated with sugar and candy, and “bubblegum” is used to describe anything sweet, popular, and harmless.

But there”s another side to it. Gum is also the culprit in a lot of pollution, and cities have been known to sink millions of dollars every year into scraping gum off municipal surfaces, only to have it replaced by millions more wads of the sticky, barely biodegradable stuff.

But there

Gum is also severely unhealthy for animals like dogs, and has even been known to cause death in some cases. With that knowledge, Savini”s masses of bright, artificial pink gum become suddenly menacing, speaking of unhealthy habits and continuous consumption.

Gum is also severely unhealthy for animals like dogs, and has even been known to cause death in some cases. With that knowledge, Savini

Combine that with their formaldehyde treatment, and their gleaming pinkness becomes even more unnerving.

Combine that with their formaldehyde treatment, and their gleaming pinkness becomes even more unnerving.

(via Beautiful/Decay, Laughing Squid)

Savini”s work is currently being exhibited in his native Italy at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery, which also houses works by many other artists. Savini”s pieces are coming to the U.S. this summer via the Art Southampton festival on Long Island, New York.

If you need more unsettling sculpture in your life, you”ll want to see these:

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