Alexa Lawrence, See 11 Heady Books Transformed into Ikebana Flower Displays
Posted on Art News, 06/18/14
Camille Henrot channels Japanese zen gardens with an installation of floral odes to her favorite books
The gracefully balanced flower arrangements of Camille Henrot’s installation “Is it possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers” (2012-2014) occupy the second floor of the New Museum, contributing a soothing, zenlike presence to the exhibition of the artist’s recent works. The delicate blossoms and twisting stems of the bouquets, punctuated with thoughtful empty spaces, make for more than happy embellishments. They are floral translations of weighty literary titles, themes, and quotations pulled from the bookshelves of the artist’s personal library.
When Paris-born Henrot moved to New York, temporarily leaving many of her personal belongings behind, she discovered a surrogate for her literary heroes and favorite books in Japanese ikebana flower arrangements. The combination of artistic whimsy and the theory that inspires it parallels the balance between playfulness and obedience intrinsic to ikebana, an ancient but ever-adapting cultural tradition. Each gap in the flora is as specific and important as the vines, leaves, and flowers that create them. The flower names, ranging from Latin-based etymological to nursery-rhyme literal, are listed nearby, offering complimentary verse to the lyricism of the texts they represent.
Inspired by a text more overtly related to Henrot’s interest in taxonomy and philosophy, “The Order of Things,” Michel Foucault, is an explosion of metal odds and ends mixed with anonymous vegetation and a rainbow of paint swatches—a colorful starburst of the playfully arbitrary.