Opening this Summer at Perrotin New York, Jean-Michel Othoniel presents an exhibition of new sculptures and paintings, titled Wild Rosebuds. Following the debut of his spectacular Rose paintings, which entered the permanent collection of the Louvre in 2020, the artist will pair for the first time works from his Rose and Kiku series. In Wild Rosebuds, the artist continues his exploration of nature through a contemplative and minimal approach, showcasing his romantic vision of the world where simple pleasures, such as flowers, are full of hidden meaning.
Entering the exhibition, the first artwork you will encounter is an abstract sculpture in the shape of a Borromean knot, which appears to be an infinite string of mirrored beads. This sculpture is inspired by a rosebud, which is a symbol of passion that is continually reborn. In the main room, a series of 10 paintings, made with black or red ink on gold leaf, evoke the energy and tension of a single blooming rosebud.
In the center of the exhibition, the artist has staged 7 sculptures in mirrored, colorful glass that are inspired by the chrysanthemum flower. The chrysanthemum, or Kiku, is a symbol of joy, pleasure, and eternity. These sculptures are part of the artist’s infinite knots’ series, realized first nearly a decade ago in collaboration with Mexican mathematician Aubin Arroyo. Each glass construction is based on a mathematical theory used to calculate the infinities of reflections contained within one sphere of mirrors: “the wild knot theory.”
Finally, the exhibition culminates around a large-scale black ink Kiku painting on white golf leaf. The reflective surface of the paintings dialogue with the mirrored branches of the Kiku, infinitely refracting light into all corners of the room. A major retrospective of this body of works will also be presented at The Petit Palais museum in Paris in September 2021.
Wild Rosebuds is a continuation of Jean-Michel Othoniel’s decades-long fascination with flowers as a conceptual and aesthetic framework for his fine art practice. In his early work, Othoniel buried anemones in sulphur, cut and dissected pomegranates, and pinned flower petals to the walls. In 1996, Othoniel produced a series of larger-than-life lady-slipper orchids in Murano glass and hung them from the trees dotting the Peggy Guggenheim estate in Venice, Italy, and later, hid his immense necklaces inside the cavernous oaks in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2015, the artist published a book titled “the secret language of flowers,” in collaboration with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which was republished in dialogue with the Louvre collections in 2020. In a 2015 interview, he stated “Flowers are our primary images.” He went on to reveal that “since adolescence, I amassed a stock of notes on this history of plants” as well as an exhaustive photographic archive of both flowers and trees. With their infinite symbolic associations, flowers allow Othoniel to explore his concerns with ephemerality and permanence, life and death, figure and ground, as well as form and color. For the artist, flowers have evolved into a “way of looking at the world.”
My obsession with the hidden meaning of flowers, and with their symbolism, is not only a key to reading old paintings, it is also a way of looking at the world—and an expression of my desire to see the marvels that surround us. For me what is real is a continual source of wonder.
Born in 1964 in Saint-Étienne, France
Lives and works in Paris, France
Jean-Michel Othoniel’s enchanting aesthetics revolves around the notion of emotional geometry. Through the repetition of modular elements such as bricks or his signature beads, he creates exquisite jewelry-like sculptures whose relationship to the human scale ranges from intimacy to monumentality. His predilection for materials with reversible and often reflective properties—particularly blown glass, which has been the hallmark of his practice since the early 1990s—relates to the deeply equivocal nature of his art. Monumental yet delicate, baroque yet minimal, poetic yet political, his contemplative forms, like oxymorons, have the power to reconcile opposites. While his dedication to site-specific commissions for public spaces has led some of his work to take an almost architectural turn, Othoniel’s holistic sensibility compares to fêng shui, or the art of harmonizing people with their environment, allowing viewers to inhabit his world through reflection and motion.