Whitehot Magazine

June 2008, What Comes Naturally @ Fake Estate

 Ori Gersht
 Untitled 7, 2006
 c-print mounted on aluminum
 15 ¾ x 12 ¼ inches (framed)
 Edition of 6

Fake Estate
What Comes Naturally: Contemporary Flowers
June 11 through July 12, 2008

Doing "What Comes Naturally," usually refers to something racier than floral painting. But New York's Fake Estates, the experimental group show by that name demonstrates that a sharp and gritty artistic imagination can make even modest flowers appear more raw and earthy than nature intended. In the gallery's 80 square foot space (it was once a utility closet for a photographer's studio in the Chelsea Arts Building) the eleven works on view offer a variable bouquet for the senses. Exploding with color, rooted in historical references and showing a range of stylistic approaches, the works branch off into "deconstructing the iconography through various modes of irony and abstraction." As summed up by curator Glynnis McDaris, they "contribute to the ongoing effort on the part of artists to crystallize the essence of 'floweriness' rather than redefining their symbolism."

To achieve this effect, Liz Goldwyn's luxurious gold encrusted sculpture sensually represent flowers' vibrant opulence. In her 2007, Anemone sculpture, frame an Agathe Concha shell with chunky gold, creating a form that resembles an opulent oyster, or a cluster of pale roses.

 Joseph Heidecker Liz Goldwyn
 Bouquet 4, 2007 Anenome, 2007  
 Hand manipulated found photograph Agate Concha shell, gold
 16 x 20 inches (framed) 

 Sarah E. Wood
 Shadow Plants, 2007
 Plastic, vinyl, crepe paper, sand

 Marc Swanson and Joe Mama Nitzberg Marc Swanson and Joe Mama Nitzberg
 Untitled (Darby Crash), 2008 Untitled (Halston), 2008
 c-print c-print 
 16 x 20 inches 16 x 20 inches 
 Edition of 5 Edition of 5 

 Patterson Beckwith   Patterson Beckwith
 Untitled (Albertson's I), 2006  Untitled (Albertson's II), 2006
 C-Print   C-Print
 16 x 20 inches   16 x 20 inches
 Edition 3/5    Edition 3/5
And multi-media artist Marc Swanson's collaboration with photographer Joe-Mama Nitzberg documenting memorial floral arrangements for gay icons Halston and Darby Crash updates the traditional role of flowers as memento mori, whose beauty is heightened because it is so fast-fleeting.

Patterson Beckwith makes this juxtaposition blatant in before/after shots of electric blue daisies. They glow with their doctored beauty in one image. But then they are diminished to nothing but dry stalks and unnatural dye in the next. Like fading beauties for whom make-up and surgery only accentuates their age, these petal’s phony hue makes their inevitable decay seem more worthy of scorn than sympathy.

 Anthony Fuller
 Flowers, 2007
 30 x 30 inches
 Edition of 6

 Joyce Kim
 Gather the Black Flowers, 2006
 Mixed media on canvas
 52 x 70 inches   
 Pavel Buchler
 Old, Rare and Unusual Roses, 2006
 Found tube of paint, book
 9 x 12 x 4 inches    
 Joshua Smith
 Untitled (rose bouquet), 2008
 Paper napkins
 Variable dimensions

Israeli artist Ori Gersht also refuses to let his blooms grow withered gracefully. But his tactic is more rock & roll, than nip and tuck. Gersht fast-forwards this fleeting beauty by photographing flowers exploding in bursts, with petals flying like shrapnel.

The real flowers blooming in New York might wilt and fade when summer ends, but the ideas that grow out of these works will remain evergreen.

Ana Finel Honigman

Ana Finel Honigman is a writer and critic. She writes about contemporary art and fashion for magazines including Artforum.com, Art in America, V, TANK, Art Journal, Whitewall, Dazed & Confused, Saatchi Online, Style.com, Dazeddigital.com, British Vogue, Interview and the New York Times's Style section. A Sarah Lawrence graduate, Ana has completed a Masters degree and is currently reading for a D.Phil in the History of Art at Oxford University. She also teaches a contemporary art course for NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development students. You can read her series Ana Finel Honigman Presents. 

Photo: Maxime Ballesteros



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