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Chris Wolston animates The Future Perfect gallery with ‘Flower Power’
Exhibition view of Chris Wolston: Flower Power, on view through May 1 - June 30, 2023, The Future Perfect, New York
Image: Courtesy of Chris Woston and The Future Perfect, Photography: Joseph Kramm, Styling: Colin King

Chris Wolston animates The Future Perfect gallery with ‘Flower Power’

The American artist unveils a solo exhibition in The Future Perfect’s New York gallery, replete with exaggerated botanical forms and silhouettes in terracotta and bronze.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : Jun 12, 2023

Since time immemorial, human civilisations have evolved with nature as their primary reference point. From the first civilisations sprouting and spreading on the banks of rivers to natural elements birthing intrinsic cultural and religious symbols, humankind repeatedly finds its way back to its roots, and continues to do so through countless manifestations of art and design fuelled by raw earthiness. A befitting instance where the fragile offshoots of earth furthered a rather potent idea is the 'Flower Power' movements from the 1960s and 1970s—coined in 1965 by beat poet and counterculture leader Allen Ginsberg, the phrase inspired an anti-war crusade that focussed on demonstrations of love, unity, and peace as opposed to brute force and rebellion. Medellín-based sculptural furniture designer and artist Chris Wolston reinterprets 'Flower Power' in his latest troupe of furniture and lighting designs.

Contemporary design gallery The Future Perfect presents Flower Power—a solo exhibition on view from May 1 - June 30, 2023, in its New York space. Wolston’s fourth solo exhibition and tenth presentation with the gallery, Flower Power symbolises a renewed direction for the artist’s ceramic practice with a series of terracotta furniture design and lighting—the first ceramic collection he has made exclusively for The Future Perfect. “The 'Flower Power' movement and its ideals—universal belonging, peace, love, unity, respect—are sentiments that I hope resonate throughout my work. We still see the offering of flowers as a gesture of peacemaking. Flowers are more than an olive branch—they stop you dead in your tracks and force you to reconsider your relationship with the world around you,” Wolston elaborates.

The showcased oeuvre draws inspiration from the blooming tropical flora found in the mountains and forests of Medellin, Colombia—Wolston’s adopted home. The sculptural designs collectively investigate and celebrate the cultural stature of the flower, its various symbolic meanings, the role the flower industry plays in both the local and global economies, as well as its emblematic presence in social and political initiatives. The collection extends the American artist’s practice that amalgamates traditional techniques and materials with contemporary realism, and an authentic postmodern aesthetic. “Continuing his ongoing exploration of the relationship between humans and nature—and our reverence for the latter—(Wolston) contrasts elaborate floral formations with surreal abstract forms, embracing the joy of imagination. This study is furthered by his dedication to craft and respect for natural resources, locally sourcing clay from a mine in Bogotá, foraging for fallen and uprooted plants on hikes, and buying flowers from his local market, La Placita de Flórez,” says Gallery Director, Laura Young.

Occupying the central spot in the exhibition space is an ensemble of 13 throne-like, organic terracotta chair designs and benches. While some compositions are textured with detailed ceramic casts of plants, flowers, and wild fruit from the artist’s own garden, others flaunt flowers and leaves in an exaggerated scale, or feature abstract, amorphous outgrowths evocative of vines and root structures. Wolston unveils two light sculptures that conform to the same expression as that of the furniture pieces—an irregular table lamp reminiscent of a log dismantled by insects, and a chandelier displaying an abstraction of bronze blossoms and leaves with an opalescent glass orb blown in Murano. Lifesize bronze creatures—ants, bees, centipedes, salamanders—are finishing elements of various pieces in the organic collection—crawling covertly on the backs and legs of chairs. The bronze-casting is translated in the series of vessels that completes Wolston’s explorations for Flower Power.

Flower Power is an ode to Colombia’s lush environment while paying homage to the nation’s position as the floral capital of the Americas—a fact that stems from the economic initiatives of the 1960s. Wolston employs a curvaceous, retro depiction of a daisy for the chair’s backrest in a work dubbed Flower Chair. In addition to the flower’s symbolic meaning within the ‘language of flowers,' rebirth, new beginnings, innocence, purity, love, and hope—the period-stylised daisy brings to mind its symbolic use in the 1960s as an anti-war symbol following Lyndon B. Johnson's infamous 1964 presidential campaign's television advertisement, Daisy Girl, which sees a little girl’s counting of a daisy’s petals equated with the countdown of a nuclear missile launch—the ad ending with Johnson ominously stating, “We must either love each other, or we must die."

This body of work continues Wolston’s journey of commitment to the study of craftsmanship traditions from around the world—beginning with his Fulbright study of pre-Columbian ceramics, which is what brought him to Colombia in the first place. Approaching clay with a refreshing vision and vocabulary, Wolston’s latest collection brings to light the depth of his technical know-how, from the meticulous process of creating elaborate moulds and casts of intricate plant forms to his command of complex hand-building, as well as fresh experimentations in bronze casting.

'Flower Power' will be on view from May 1 - June 30, 2023, at The Future Perfect, NewYork.

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