Stems is pleased to announce Geranium, featuring Al Freeman, Alicia Gibson, Peter Harkawik, Susumu Kamijo, Rainen Knecht, Howard Fonda, Jennie Jieun Lee, Josh Mannis, Annelie McKenzie and Jennifer Rochlin.
There is nothing more magical than nature : all the worst places you could end up— apocalyptic desert, prison—are without it. And in such places there are examples of life that break your heart, the single rose fading petal by petal in Beauty and the Beast, the bird with a broken wing befriended by a guy on death row. These things are in movies and therefore imaginary, but that’s OK. There’s always a chance of fate coming to an imaginable end.
When I rst became aware of geranium oil, I was arrested by the scent of it on a woman; at a glance, I hallucinated that she was me in 20 years. The experience made me go out and buy a bottle of it. There’s something about the smell that’s more interesting than good; not sweet but bitter. It has an antiseptic quality, like lemon cleanser. It shocks you out of the moment. The color is something like vermilion, which to me will always recall a tube of too-expensive paint that you’re encouraged to buy in art school. It’s the brightest color, not something you would want to mess around with, or mix into other colors. It’s meant to be used as a ourish, like an accent in a royal court painting. Certainly not pedestrian.
The works in Geranium range from painting to sculpture to drawing, and all have a sense of organized play. Rainbows of colors are used, and patterning that recollects the painter’s palette. There is a great deal of guration, some owers, and elements of nature such as animals, smoke, vines. It’s the kind of exhibition that would be fun to imagine coming awake at night and having a secret life. Some of the characters depicted appear to be living outside of time. A nude reclining gure by Rainen Knecht is covered in muck (but beautiful muck), in a swamp. A stuffed gure by Al Freeman imitates the phenomenon of ‘boyfriend pillows’, vulgar but funny. In Josh Mannis’ painting a couple are at a loss for purpose, absorbed by their own telegraphic detail. In other works, animals function as totems and nature creeps in from the outside, swaying in a neon breeze.
Susumu Kamijo’s poodles charmingly remind you of ceramic statues you might nd in a Boca Raton condominium, surrounded by plastic-covered furniture. Clearly a poodle has been designed for our amusement, and yet they themselves appear to be so amused. Jennie Jieun Lee’s ceramics with their colorful glaze make the notion of fusing a visible paradigm. Alicia Gibson’s nod to ubiquitous products and our desire for them provides a twisted and delightful comfort, mirroring at once our consumerist culture and unmet desire.
Much has been written about the garden ower, the wild ower, the painted, caged or de ant ower, and each is different. To me, Geranium is a scent and a color that goes beyond beauty in its connotations. Here is an attempt to go beyond appearances, into a realm of the unknown, the product frozen in time, pinioned under a glass bell jar.
Adrianne Rubenstein’s curatorial projects include; We might not have a planet left soon at 68 Projects, Berlin; Fort Greene at Venus, Los Angeles; Maraschino at Fourteen30 Contemporary, Portland, OR; Anthropocene at CANADA, New York; If you throw a spider out the window, does it break? At Brennan & Grif n, New York; Snail Salon at Regina Rex, New York; and Forget About the Sweetbreads, co-curated with Joanne Greenbaum at James Fuentes, New York. She is also a painter and Director at CANADA, New York.