The comprehensive exhibition Flowers & Mushrooms presents current positions of contemporary representations of flowers and mushrooms and their newly developing levels of meaning.
For some time now, there has been a renaissance of flowers and mushroom themes in fine art. The works of leading "portraitists" of flowers and mushrooms, such as Peter Fischli / David Weiss, David LaChapelle, Marc Quinn, Sylvie Fleury, Nobuyoshi Araki or Carsten Höller, continue the multi-faceted and long pictorial tradition of flowers, which is unparalleled in the history of art. At the same time no other motif is so easily suspected of trivialism. The question arises of how a subject that is frequently accused of being trivial and shallow has been able to gain ground in a field of art that is generally regarded as serious and sophisticated. The picture of a flower is too easily associated with the idea of harmless beauty and the mushroom with cliché-like hallucinogenic states of consciousness. Nevertheless, many artists increasingly adopt these motifs, adapt them and find individual ways to put them into the context of socio-critical, feminist, political and media-reflexive art.
It is only at first glance that David LaChapelle and Marc Quinn continue the baroque symbol for opulence with their impressively grand flower arrangements that reveal a threateningly devouring character upon closer inspection. Female artists such as Vera Lutter, Paloma Navares and Chen Lingyang reflect upon flowers in a specifically female way, using them as a symbol for their own identity-defining sexuality, but also for their vulnerability and exposure and thus elevate the flower to a socio-critical and political level. With almost scientific interest, Andrew Zuckerman and Carsten Höller take an analytical view of the morphological characteristics of flowers and mushrooms in their photographs and installations that create an impressive immediacy. The erotic photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki and Robert Mapplethorpe draw parallels between a blossom and the male and female body and create a field of tension between still life and nude. The wilting flower as a classic symbol of vanity is depicted by Michael Wesely in his long-exposure photographs, which accompany the life of a flower from full bloom to its wilting while emphasizing their beauty to the very end. Contrastingly, the monstrous, towering plants of the "desolate" video installations created by Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg are devoid of any loveliness and have a menacing effect. They depict violence and abuse, give flowers a particularly irritating and disconcerting touch by breaking with their generally positive connotation.
The particular appeal of this exhibition jointly organized by the curators of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg lay in the comparison and confrontation of the different levels of meaning of images of flowers and mushrooms and their controversial positions in contemporary arts. The title of the exhibition was inspired by the series of C-prints by the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli / David Weiss with the title "Flowers, Mushrooms". Flowers & Mushrooms presented a selection of important works from the fields of photography, photo-based paintings, video and sculpture/installation art with floral motifs, spanning the time from the early beginnings of photography to the immediate presence. Selected works on loan accentuated the focal points and main themes of the exhibition by raising current social and aesthetic issues and thus allowed a closer inspection of the multi-faceted symbolic use of flowers and mushrooms. At the same time, new levels of meaning were opened, referring to the ambivalent and mystical dark side of human existence. The exhibition showed how contemporary art adopts and continues the historical and complex pictorial tradition of flowers and mushrooms by adding new, contemporary perspectives. A historical section with photographs from the 19th century and of Classical modernism complemented the exhibition and showed how photography as a new medium has developed a special relationship with floral motifs.
With works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Anna Atkins, Eliška Bartek, Christopher Beane, Karl Blossfeldt, Lou Bonin-Tchimoukoff, Balthasar Burkhard, Giovanni Castell, Georgia Creimer, Imogen Cunningham, Nathalie Djurberg, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Sylvie Fleury, Seiichi Furuya, Ernst Haas, Carsten Höller, Judith Huemer, Dieter Huber, Rolf Koppel, August Kotzsch, David LaChapelle, Edwin Hale Lincoln, Chen Lingyang, Vera Lutter, Katharina Malli, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elfriede Mejchar, Moritz Meurer, Paloma Navares, Nam June Paik, Marc Quinn, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Zeger Reyers, Pipilotti Rist, August Sander, Gitte Schäfer, Shirana Shahbazi, Luzia Simons, Thomas Stimm, Robert von Stockert, William Henry Fox Talbot, Diana Thater, Stefan Waibel, Xiao Hui Wang, Andy Warhol, Alois Auer von Welsbach, Michael Wesely, Manfred Willmann, Andrew Zuckerman.
Curators: Toni Stooss, Director, Veit Ziegelmaier, Curator, Tina Teufel, Curator, Museum der Moderne Salzburg; and Christina Penetsdorfer and Katja Mittendorfer-Oppolzer, Curatorial Assistants, Museum der Moderne Salzburg