Christopher Beane's Baroquecoco

August Zinnias Color Study I (Baroquecoco Series), 2019. Flex chromogenic print. 45 x 36”. Edition 3.

Christopher Beane: Baroquecoco

Jim Kempner Fine Art

September 26 - November 3, 2019

By ANNA SCOLA, November 2019 

Christopher Beane is a photographer based in New York City. He graduated from RISD in 1992 and moved to New York where he worked in Chelsea’s flower district. So began his fascination with the botanical subject—a breath of fresh air amidst the industry.

At the Jim Kempner Fine Art, Christopher Beane presented a new collection of botanical photographs. The pieces are chromogenic prints of flower bouquets in vases staged against paint-stained backdrops. In each photograph, the bouquet extends itself into a graffiti garden bed where the foreground and background float between and within one another. The backdrop is a painted deconstruction of the flowers unique to each bouquet and the vase appears to dissolve as the reflections play off the glass. The physicality of the object and the space which it occupies are conflated.

Peaches and Cream (Baroquecoco Series), 2018. Flex chromogenic print. 45 x 36 1/4”. Edition 3.

The bouquets are carefully curated in analogous colors of luscious poppies, roses, dahlias, and peonies. Upon looking closer, one realizes the edges of the real flower and the gentle shadow it casts upon the painted surface engaging in a juxtaposition of textures between the sharpness of the photographed flower and the loose brushstrokes in the background. Only in this proximity to the print can one see the distinction between real and abstracted; between the natural and the constructed.  

On the second floor, overlooking the Tenth Avenue bustle, is a site-specific installation. The wall is coated in hundreds of indiscernible overlapping magazine cut-outs interwoven with black and white splashes of paint. The collage wall is the anarchic wallpaper holds a single framed photograph in the center. The photograph is of a salmon-tinted dahlia bouquet on a striking yellow and green striped backdrop. The colors are highly saturated so much so that it is difficult to concentrate on a particular moment in the photograph. Instead, the yellow lines in the background appear to interweave with the yellowing leaves and the flower petals fall in and out of the green stripes. The visual experience of the installation is all-consuming. 

Butterfly Ranunculus Macaroons (Baroquecoco Series), 2019. Flex chromogenic print. 50 x 40”. Edition 3.

The oversaturated colors in the individual portraits and the culmination of the works within the space demand attention. At first, it is simply chaos but, with time, the colors settle into vibrations and the viewer sinks into the space. The sharpened contours and color of the object intensifying observation and the crispness of the image denies the ephemerality of the subject. Beane’s gardens surmounts to those of fantasy. The lushness and vitality welcome nature as separate to human subjectivity and belonging in universal beauty. 

The exhibition, titled Baroquecoco, is a hybridization of the elaborate Baroque and Rococo movements in the 17th and 19th centuries respectively. The Northern European Baroque painters extracted a morose quality in the everyday object. In a still life of an abandoned table set, the wine and fruit illuminate a dark sunken space. Death is hauntingly omnipresent regardless of space and time. By the following century, the French Rococo sought to infuse more light into their subjects. The art of this era celebrated extravagance and frivolousness. The still-life’s of ornate flower bouquets bloomed with pastel colors carrying a sense of youth and purity. Beane draws from these styles as he stages the photographs and curates the color palette. The subject’s arousing playfulness of color is captured with stern allocation and where life and death converge on a petal and a stroke of paint. WM


Anna Scola

Anna Scola is an American and Russian artist, writer and curator based in Singapore and New York. As a practicing artist, Anna uses performance and installation to explore issues of identity and insecurity that arise from personal and socio-political relations to contemporary migration. As a curator, she has conceptualized and managed a number of exhibitions that create unique conditions for the artists and explore the potential of a gallery space.


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