Almost Baroque: Nine Floral "Paintings" from El Mundo (February 15 - April 12, 2009)
This exhibition presented contemporary flower "paintings" -- digital prints based on Baroque and Rococo still lives -- that were purchased by Triple Candie from a local El Mundo department store. Though the prints were made in an art-factory in southern China, and are an inexpensive and popular form of decoration in low-income communities like Harlem, even to the trained art historian they have a certain allure. For one thing, they are remarkably realistic. But more to the point, they are complex re-makes based on historic sources that have been "improved" for mass-market salability, or which combine details from an assortment of works.
Floral still lifes were symbols of great wealth and taste in seventeenth-century Holland and Flanders (now Belgum). Cut flowers -- particularly tulips and varietals introduced from other countries -- were expensive and flower paintings provided people an economical substitute that bloomed all year round. Despite the fact that many Dutch still lifes look like they were painted from observation, they weren't. They are fictional recreations, pastiches like the digital prints on view here, combining flowers that bloom at different times in a single image.
The downtown art world would not consider the "paintings" in this exhibition to be art, even though they are wholly originally images. They are mass-produced, they are anonymous and unsigned, and they have no economic value and likely never will. To us, these are positive values. On the surface these "paintings" look conservative and old fashioned, but they present -- intentionally or not -- a radical proposition for what art can be.