The UBS Art Gallery’s exhibition, “Implant,” features work ranging from botanically accurate sculptures and paintings, to abstract gestures inspired by flora, to conceptual works suggesting artist/plant collaborations. Curator Jodie Vicenta Jacobson of The Horticultural Society was inspired by Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire, and the notion that plants have the power to infiltrate the artist’s psyche, eventually forcing the artists to immortalize them in works of art. Lance Esplund, shamelessly sprouting growth and garden metaphors, calls “Implant” conceptually heavy and aesthetically weak. “An ill-conceived and poorly tended garden — if not a jungle — in which artists and ideas clash, and certain works feel so out of place that they resemble invasive species….
“One of the main problems with ‘Implant’ is that its curator believes that painting, before the invention of the camera, performed mainly a slavishly ‘mimetic [rather than poetic] function.’ This worn-out premise is extended to mean that contemporary representational art must somehow be subversive in order to be relevant. To that end, we see Susannah Hewlett‘s ‘Untitled (Painting is Dead)’ (2008), a funeral wreath that spells out its title; Peter Coffin‘s ‘Untitled (Greenhouse)’ (2002), which transforms an actual greenhouse into a performance space for musicians, and Sharon Core‘s C-prints of the paintings of 19th-century American still life painter Raphaelle Peale. Ms. Core’s photographs purport to comment on the photographic nature of painting ‘before photography displaced painting.’ What place, you may ask, do artworks about the ‘death of painting’ have in an exhibition about artists and plants, especially an exhibition that includes paintings? What those artworks do is to convert a show supposedly about the interaction between artists and nature into a show about the incestuous interactions between contemporary artists and art. ‘Implant’ is really just another exhibition (in which the theme happens to be plants) of the usual subjects and their usual subversions.” Read more.
Tomorrow P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and The Horticultural Society of New York present a lecture in conjunction with “Implant,” in which Michael Pollan takes the plant’s point of view. At P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 7:00 pm. Free and open to the public.
“Implant,” curated by Jodie Vicenta Jacobson. UBS Art Gallery Midtown, New York, NY.Through October 31. A long list of participating artists is available at the website.