LOS ANGELES — The Canary Test gallery is on the edge of the Flower District, the labyrinth of wholesale shops selling Birds of Paradises, marigolds, ferns, and moss balls to the city’s florists. This lush setting is the inspiration for Wilt, a three-phased exhibition of floral arrangements scored by the sound duo Xen Model.
As gallery owners and curators Ben Logan and Kell Yang-Sammataro interacted more with their green-thumbed neighbors, they observed that the artistry behind floral arrangement was not unlike sculpture and decided to give 12 florists their own exhibitions. Some are professionals, some are hobbyists, and some are artists who also happen to work with flowers.
Over three weeks, groups of four florists will have carte blanche with the gallery. With the plants’ short lifespans and inhospitable gallery conditions in mind (Canary Test has no windows, no temperature controls, and can become a stuffy, hot box), the florists receive only three days to show their arrangements, which will wilt and wither away by the time the weekend concludes.
On September 5, Wilt Phase I paired florists GUNNAR and Maurice Harris (Bloom & Plume) with the hybrid photographer-horticulturist JiaHao Peng (Ten Ten Photosynthesis) and multimedia artist Jacqueline Kiyomi Gork.
In the front gallery, Harris’s colossal, colorful arrangement placed blue feathers among dried flowers and a willowy rag rug while spade-shaped chromatic green anthuriums burst through the brush. Behind it, Gork’s understated tangle of dried seaweed enveloped a vase, a family heirloom her grandfather purchased after his family lost everything in a Japanese internment camp. Beyond these arrangements, in the second gallery, large bundles of Cenchrus Setaceus, or fountain grass, recreated the overgrown terrain in the Santa Monica mountains. GUNNAR harvested the invasive plant herself and suspended one group of cuttings above the other, the plant life seemingly mirroring its overwhelming presence in the wild. Peng’s suspended bouquet of ferns, white orchids, and Adanson’s monstera, which appear to grow from moss balls, ended the presentation on a meditative note.
While flowers are not typically rooted in fine art galleries, the creativity that goes into flower arrangement is nothing new. Peng, Gork, and future exhibitors Yoa Ikebana, Alice Lam (A.L. BASA), and Gan Uyeda fuse the ancient Japanese arts of Ikebana and Kokedama in their practices.
Each phase has an opening reception with a live, durational sound performance by Xen Model, who channel the plants’ energy into a cheerful, ambient score.
Wilt Part II opens at Canary Test gallery (526 East 12th Street, Flower District, Los Angeles) on September 12 with Lam, Uyeda, Yoa Ikebana and Riley Joyner, and September 19 with Amber Lu, Gustavo Cordova (A Radical Botanical), Lindsay Cummins, and RENKO. Receptions are from 6 to 9 pm.