MONA KUHN: ParisPhoto 2018 | Flowers Gallery Exhibition + Book Signings

 Bushes and Succulents © Mona Kuhn

Bushes and Succulents © Mona Kuhn

Bushes and Succulents © Mona Kuhn

Bushes and Succulents © Mona Kuhn

Bushes and Succulents © Mona Kuhn

Bushes and Succulents © Mona Kuhn

Bushes and Succulents © Mona Kuhn

Bushes and Succulents 
Photographs: Mona Kuhn
Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks
Published by Stanley Barker, 2018

PARIS PHOTO: Under the glorious glass domed ceiling of the Grand Palais, just at the VIP entrance, you will immediately be struck by the exotic beauty of Mona Kuhn's brilliant new series, "Bushes and Succulents,” hanging in FLOWERS London Gallery, Booth (A2); several large pieces ranging in size from 30x40" to 45x60. As a long-time fan of Kuhn's work going back over a decade -  from her early black and white portraits and nudes, through her color series Evidence, Native, Bordeaux and Private, up to this most recent incredibly sensual new series, "Bushes and Succulents” now debuting at Paris Photo - I'm always impressed by her methodology when embarking on a new series.  I spoke with Mona about her inspiration with these alluring botanicals.

EA: How did this series originate for you?

MONA KUHN: Not so long ago, women would find recognition as artists mainly if they worked with botanicals and craft. So earlier this year, I thought I ought to start, sooner than later, my first botanical series titled “Bushes and Succulents”. The title offers a sensual and playful wit to the much discussed aspects of current feminism.  My contribution is to continue a conversation that probably started with Courbet's painting "L'origine du monde”.

Feminism is currently multidimensional; there is no one take or objective. As for my own work, my intention with this series is to celebrate the female form and address women’s rights to express their sexuality in a way that is both playful and provocative. My own initial intent was strongly intuitive. The plants, in this case succulents, were chosen because of their power of endurance. And the solarized process on the Bushes abstracted the images of the bodies and the process itself pushed to reveal imperfections and bring out to the surface women's struggles, their strength, and their power. 

To me, both the succulents and women have powerful alluring forms related to notion of origin and survival. As a photographer, my female gaze highlights an unfiltered admiration for the female form and the works of other women such as Lee Miller and Georgia O’Keeffe. Additionally, I am honored to include a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  I have great respect for the women who collaborated in this work and the artist women who inspired me to push myself forward.

EA: Stieglitz and members of his circle viewed Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings as an expression of her female sexuality. If you could choose what people to take away from viewing your new work, what would it be?

MK: My intention with “Bushes and Succulents” was to abstract the images while still holding on to the history of the photographic medium. I wanted to bring back attention to Lee Miller’s process of solarization. Man Ray was well known for creating solarized images, however it was Lee Miller who discovered it. Solarizing the body parts helped me abstract from straight reality and the "au naturel” or “full bush” look helped shield visually what most people prefer to keep private. As a result, I photographed an intimate segment of a woman’s body without showing much!

As a counter point, the close-up images of succulent plants evoke a much more heightened sensual emotion. The succulents embrace a sense of wonder, you no longer know what you are looking at, they are in a way reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe’s large flower paintings. This new series is about juxtaposing images and playing with how the mind brings them together, the viewer feels allured, yet nothing is quite revealed. This series plays with the power of perception.

EA: Why did you choose Gwendolyn Brooks poem “We Real Cool” for this book?

MK: Instead of an art historian or curatorial text, I was rather looking for a song or a poem that carried a similar energy. When I first read Gwendolyn Brooks “We Real Cool” poem, I was immediately taken by a few key words which resonated with what I was trying to convey visually. I like to think of women as “We”. I like the all inclusive unifying message. I also loved passages like “we sing sin” and “we thin gin” and “we lurk late” and “we strike straight”. 

I created these images with women of all shapes and ethnic backgrounds, who felt alike because they think alike and go fiercely about their daily lives. There is a sense that they own their good and bad days, that they find time to connect and have fun and that they are not ashamed or in any way apologetic for being themselves.  So the poem felt perfect.  Gregory Barker then reached out to Gwendolyn Brooks’ estate and presented my work for their consideration.  I was beyond honored when he called to confirm they had granted us permission to include the poem in this book.

And lately, as I present this series to institutions, I always save the best for the last, and finish with a recorded voice of Gwendolyn Brooks reading that poem. It gives me the chills, it is a real blessing!

“Bushes and Succulents"
Flowers, London
Paris Photo. Booth A2
Grand Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill
75008 Paris 
“Bushes and Succulents"
Photographs: Mona Kuhn
Text by Gwendolyn Brooks
Publisher: Stanley/Barker, 2018

"Bushes and Succulents" is a woman’s artistic interpretation of women, endurance, freedom, and origin. The monograph has been printed using silver ink and features the poem "We Real Cool" by Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks.
Book Signings:

 Nov 10: 2pm 
Flowers London, Booth A2 inside the Grand Palais

Nov 10: 4pm
Group Signing at Jeu de Paume, Place Concorde 
6 Artists Published by Stanley Barker 2018



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