(originally published 7/29/11 in KnightBlog)
You’ll find no flowers when you visit the Susanne Hilberry Gallery to see “In Bloom,” the four-person show on view there until August 6. Not real ones, anyway. There’s a Styrofoam box full of artificial flowers, watered fruitlessly by a half-hearted burble. And there’s an abundant sense of growing and blooming in much of the rest of the work. But almost none of it is natural growth; the work resolutely inhabits the realm of the artificial, only peeking out to see the natural world from inside material culture. Comprised largely of detritus from the consumerist machine that has come to constitute our environment, the work can only ever refer to nature, though natural ghosts insistently haunt the periphery.
Art referring to nature, of course, is nothing new. What is relatively new, the work suggests, is how very natural the artificial has become. In a 2008 reviewof work by Ivin Ballen, an artist in the show whose pieces include paintedtrompe l’oeil representations of duct tape and plastic bags, Lynn Crawfordmakes a surprising comparison to the mid-19th century landscapes of theHudson River School. But it makes sense; those artists represented the natural environment as they experienced it. For Ballen, today, duct tape and garbage bags are the environment.