The Crisis of Representation as Illustrated with Plants and Flowers
03.30 / 05.18.19
Arno Auer/Ingo Mittelstaedt
Sasha Waters Freyer
It’s hard to imagine twentieth century art without the “crisis of representation.” If anything, the crisis of representation is a euphemism for art as we know it, urinal and all. Its link to abstraction, rather than the readymade, made it a fixture of the twentieth century. But the crisis of representation was not precipitated by the mere advent of abstraction. Crisis usually speaks less to a problem and more to its proportions, which in this case are those of abstraction’s triumph.
The ramifications of a triumphal abstraction were inescapable in the latter half of the twentieth century. The generation of artists coming of age in the wake of minimalism and conceptual art, for all their skepticism toward abstraction, were the painfully self-conscious heirs to an indelible rift between signifier and signified. Rather than abide by this condition, the works comprising this exhibition use the subject matter of flora to foreground the rift.
In several instances the relationship between signifier and signified is hopelessly incommensurate as flora stands in for subjects that arguably exceed the scope of visualization. These include reference to a list of countries whose track record of human rights abuses qualifies as noteworthy (Christopher Williams); the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords (Auer/Mittelstaedt); the perpetual displacement of refugee communities (Fougeirol); the economic treaties that all totaled go by the name globalization (Taryn Simon); or a twentieth century timeline illustrated exclusively with breeds of daffodils (Lariviere). None of the works, however, smack of failure let alone mourning for a lost referent. The nature to which these artists resort is little other than a site of projection for nature holds no inherent meaning wherein lies its parallel with art, which in this case is not so much the thing looked at as it is a way of looking.
This exhibition was curated by LAXART Director, Hamza Walker. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.