NEW YORK, NEW YORK - The title of the show, Verdure, finds inspiration from the Latin word for “lush arrangements” and “fresh, natural abundance.” Just as the term denotes, works within this show encompass the employment and exploitation of themes repurposed from the environment, whether physically, as in the use of flowers and sheet metals, to the reconstitution of philosophical ideals, as exemplified by Philip Taaffe’s Averroes, who borrows his title from the namesake of the Andalusian philosopher.
Verdure includes a survey of works by Rachel Lee Hovnanian featuring distinct representations of her signature narcissus flower. Finding inspiration in the myth of Narcissus, where a beautiful hunter withers away as he remains enthralled by his reflection, Hovnanian places narcissus petals in botox “vases,” immortalizing them in marble and reflective glass mirrors as exemplified by Le Petit and Glance, respectively. Shoja Azari and Shahram Karimi’s video paintings embody the theme of Verdure. Through a collaborative effort between both artists, Azari’s video rendering of the elements — wind, foliage, and light — provide motion to the naturalistic paintings by Karimi. Dreamscape VI depicts the abundance of summer, reflected in sunlight and foliage, as Dreamscape II portrays the early spring, when cherry blossoms are found in full bloom.
As Verdure speaks to copiousness and bounty, the notion of collage as a cornucopia of imagery fits well within the theme of this show. Donald Baechler’s The Rose of Delhi: No. 1 features a fabric collage, providing a unique perspective into the interpretations of Eastern imagery processed by a Western gaze. In his unique, juvenile aesthetic, he recalls the historical relationship between both cultures through the trading of textile — a huge catalyst in the globalization of the world. Speaking to the palette of the natural world — of blues, golds, and greens — and its rich visual, rhythmic vocabulary, Negar Akhami’s The Water is Turbid from its Source wields Iranian culture and calligraphy to “unleash Persian art's expressive potential, to use it as a springboard for an original personal vision.” This desire, to capture the vastness of meaning and existence, is best exemplified in the sheer width of the work, speaking to the theme of the show.
The meticulous constitution of Akhami’s work is reflected in the set of three Ran Hwang Odes. Calling attention to the import placed in Eastern cultures on silence and calm, and the absence of this in contemporary Western society, Hwang constructs an arrangement of plexiglass, pins, and paper buttons emulating texture found across oil painting. By doing so, she fabricates ethereal windows into what has become the fantasy of silence in a world brimming with noise.
Ultimately, the works in Verdure recall an adolescent Earth — an environment composed of untamed wildlife and uncultivated ideas. When faced with the exigences of the unknown, history illustrates a pattern of humans looking to nature for answers, whether in light of a need for nutritional sustenance, as detailed in Michael Pollan’s book 'The Botany of Desire,' or academic necessity. In reflecting on this instinctive behavior, the artists of Verdure follow this pattern, looking to their own environments, producing their perspectives in visual mediums, and, in doing so, effectively locating a solution.