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Taryn Simon Portrays Flowers as the Central Elements of Pivotal Moments in History at Gagosian Gallery

  • Taryn Simon exhibition
  • Taryn Simon exhibition
  • Taryn Simon exhibition
  • Taryn Simon exhibition
April 12, 2016
A philosophy graduate interested in theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

The history of flowers has been surrounded by symbolism and mythology for thousands of years, affecting our responses and arousing emotions. Many artists have used botanical imagery as a rich visual symbolism. In her new series, the American artist Taryn Simon depicts an interesting narrative giving flowers a global political perspective. Taryn Simon exhibition Paperwork and the will of Capital – a body of work comprised of 36 large-scale photographs of colorful floral arrangements, accompanied by 12 concrete sculptures incorporating pressed flowers — will be presented at Gagosian Gallery in Rome. Following her acclaimed exhibition at Gagosian New York earlier this year, and her participation in the 56th Biennale di Venezia in 2015, this is Simon’s first solo exhibition in Rome.

Taryn Simon exhibition
Left: Taryn Simon – Convention on Cluster Munitions. Oslo, Norway, December 3, 2008, 2015 / Right: Taryn Simon – Gdańsk Agreement. Gdańsk Shipyards, Gdańsk, Poland, August 31, 2015

Thousands of Blooms

In her work, Simon has always addressed the role of images in shaping personal and political history. The bouquets she presents in her new series are based on floral arrangements present at the formal signings of dozens of political and economic agreements between nations. After working with a botanist to identify the flowers in archival records and importing more than 4000 flowers and plants from Aalsmeer in Netherlands, she has re-created these floral arrangements and photographed them against the bicolored fields relating the foregrounds and backgrounds in the historical images. Selected flowers from these arrangements were dried, pressed and sewn into herbarium paper creating 36 botanical collages placed in concrete presses.

Taryn Simon exhibition
Left: Taryn Simon – Agreement for cooperation on China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System in Pakistan. Aiwan-e-Sadr, Islamabad, Pakistan, May 22, 2013, 2015 / Right: Taryn Simon – Agreement to develop Park Hyatt St. Kitts under the St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program. Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 16, 2012, 2015

The Art of ‘Impossible Bouquets’

Each of these arrangements represents an ‘impossible bouquet’ – a concept that emerged in Dutch still-life painting representing a collection of flowers that could never be grown naturally in the same season and geographic location. This concept started as an artificial fantasy in the development of modern capitalism, and Simon has made it real thanks to the globalization of the modern flower industry and the consumer market. Through the concept of ‘impossible bouquets’, Simon comments on these accords that proved delusive or problematic in the future. Paperwork and the Will of Capital sheds light on the artifice underlying politics, as well as the reliability and endurance of records. These accords and their effects, Simon’s photographic still-lifes and preserved flowers in concrete presses represent the language itself. Similar to these flowers, diplomacy and its efforts often wilt.

Taryn Simon exhibition
Left: Taryn Simon – Agreement Establishing the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation. Al-Bayan Palace, 2015 / Right: Taryn Simon – Agreement to conduct impact studies of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on neighboring countries. Khartoum, Sudan, August 26, 2014, 2015

Taryn Simon Exhibition at Gagosian Rome

Taryn Simon’s Paperwork and the Will of Capital will be on view at  Gagosian Rome from April 14th. The show will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Hatje Cantz and Gagosian. The catalogue also includes essays by Kate Fowle and Nicholas Kulish, botanical texts by Daniel Atha, and a short story by Hanan al-Shaykh. The show will run through June 24th, 2016.

Featured images: Taryn Simon – Agreement Establishing the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation. Al-Bayan Palace, Kuwait City, Kuwait, May 30, 2006 (detail), 2015; Taryn Simon – Agreement to develop Park Hyatt St. Kitts under the St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program. Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 16, 2012 (detail), 2015; Taryn Simon – Agreement to conduct impact studies of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on neighboring countries. Khartoum, Sudan, August 26, 2014 (detail), 2015; Taryn Simon – Agreement Establishing the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation. Al-Bayan Palace, Kuwait City, Kuwait, May 30, 2006, Press III, 2015.  All images © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.