These flowers sat between powerful men as they signed agreements designed to influence the fate of the world.
Gagosian is pleased to present large-scale photographs from the series Paperwork and the Will of Capital by Taryn Simon.
Simon is a multidisciplinary conceptual artist whose work spans photography, sculpture, and performance. Her research-driven approach has produced such impactful bodies of work as The Innocents (2002); An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007); Contraband (2010); and the web-based Image Atlas (2012); as well as The Picture Collection (2013); Birds of the West Indies (2013–14); and Black Square (2006–), an ongoing project about the consequences of human inventions. For Simon, photography has always been a vehicle for larger conceptual ideas. Paired with text, her photographs reveal the structures behind controlling systems, from ancestry and borders to botany and diplomacy. Between text and image, a blur occurs and each is altered by the other, again and again, back and forth.
In Paperwork and the Will of Capital (2015), Simon considers the stagecraft of power via the accords, treaties, and decrees drafted to influence systems of governance and economics, from nuclear armament to banking conventions and diamond trading. All involve the countries present at the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which addressed the globalization of economics after World War II, leading to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In archival images of the signings of these documents, powerful men flank flower arrangements; Simon recreated and photographed these arrangements, pairing them with texts that explain each event, underscoring the ways in which power is created, performed, marketed, and maintained.
From overflowing arrangements to more minimalist designs, each bouquet is placed in front of a striking, bicolored background, creating compelling still lifes that occupy several layers of symbolism at once: they refer to the “impossible bouquet,” the concept from the Flemish Enlightenment that brought together flowers of different climates and seasons in still life paintings; their bold use of line and color is a nod to Pop and hard-edge abstraction; and their custom-made mahogany frames emulate the bombast of certain post-war interior design, both corporate and governmental. With Paperwork and the Will of Capital, Simon addresses the instability of executive decision-making and the reliability and endurance of records, as a reflection on the precarious nature of survival. As time advances, so do these artifacts transform, revealing mutable versions of themselves.
Taryn Simon was born in 1975 in New York, where she currently lives and works. Collections include Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Institutional exhibitions include “Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007, traveled to Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam; Institute of Modern Art, Australia; and Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, through 2010); “A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters,” Tate Modern, London; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2011, traveled to Museum of Modern Art, New York; Geffen Contemporary at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, through 2013); “Contraband,” Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva (2011); “A Polite Fiction,” Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2014); “Rear Views, A Star-forming Nebula, and the Office of Foreign Propaganda,” Jeu de Paume, Paris (2015); 56th Biennale di Venezia (2015); “Taryn Simon: Action Research / The Stagecraft of Power,” Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2016); Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague (2016); “A Soldier is Taught to Bayonet the Enemy and Not Some Undefined Abstraction,” Albertinum, Dresden (2016); “Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar,” Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen (2016–17); “Taryn Simon: The Innocents,” The Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY; and “Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the Will of Capital,” Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Canada (2017). Simon’s first large-scale performance installation, An Occupation of Loss (2016), co-commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory and Artangel, premiered in New York in 2016 and will be presented in a new iteration in London in 2018.
On May 26, two new immersive installations by Simon will open at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts. The exhibition will also include the first major museum presentation of Simon’s distinguished bookwork.