Flowers & Mushrooms, MdM Mönchsberg, Salzburg

A familiar motif in fine art over time, the flower and mushroom images of the past are having somewhat of a renaissance. From 27 July until 27 October MdM Mönchsberg’s Flowers & Mushrooms examines the clichés and levels of meaning and symbolism behind the natural products. Within the exhbibition current social and aesthetic issues are discussed on the basis of a selection of works from the fields of photography, photo-based paintings, video, sculptures and installations.

Primarily associated with their decorative function, flowers also have a symbolic function at weddings and funerals were the embody fertility and death respectively. The exhibition takes on an exploration of the varied symbolic meanings of flowers in cultural history reveals further levels of meaning, many of which refer to the ambivalence and abysms of human existence.

Inspired by the multi-part work series Ohne Titel (Flowers, Mushrooms) by the artist duo Peter Fischli/David Weiss, the showcase reflects upon the Swiss artists preoccupation with the role of clichés and common subjects. Different slide projections with a comprehensive series of inkjet prints and cibachromes included crossfadings of flower and mushroom motifs.

Opening with a historical section shows photographs from the 19th and early 20th century, Flowers & Mushrooms looks at the way the new medium of photography developed a special relationship with flower motifs. Photographs of the great variety of different plant and flower species serve as a kind of substitute for the traditional herbarium or as natural models, as “prototypes of art” for ornamental design lessons. Photography has also long attracted artists with a scientific interest and attracted pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot or Anna Atkins to capture amazing pictures of plants.

Covering the effect of gender on flowers in art, Pop Art and eroticism, the exhibition includes a significant number of artists such as Andy Warhol, David LaChapelle, Marc Quinn, Imogen Cunningham, Vera Lutter and Robert Mapplethorpe. The other half of proceedings is based around mushrooms and are mainly associated with ubious alchemism and witchcraft, are desired and feared as hallucinogenic and have become an integral part of art and literature. Similar to flowers, mushrooms have a long tradition in art history and appear frequently within the context of artistic productions.

With a variety of practices on display and a dual thread running through the exhibition, Flowers & Mushrooms examines both the form of contemporary art and the continued attraction of nature.

Flowers & Mushrooms, 27 July – 27 October, MdM Mönchsberg, 5020 Salzburg.

1. Gitte Schäfer, Blumenmauer, 2012, Spiegel, Porzellan, Blumen, 280 x 480 cm, Courtesy Lullin+Ferrari/Zürich.
2. David LaChapelle, Late Summer, 2008-2011, C-Print, 152 x 110 cm, Courtesy of the Artist ROBILANT + VOENA, London – Milan.