William Shakespeare famously wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Italian artist Giuseppina Giordano has set out to create an immersive environment that will summon roses to the minds of visitors, even though there’s not a flower in sight.
“Please, Teach Me the Language of a Rose” opens Friday in the Taubman Museum of Art. Giordano, who is based in Milan, will give a talk about her multimedia installation at 6:30 p.m.
The artist imagines this work as a space for meditation, with elements that make subtle reference to art history. Attendees pass through a curtain of filaments decorated with the text of the late Italian poet Giorgio Caproni’s “Concessione,” which translates to “Throw away / any works in verse or prose. / No one has been able to say / what is, in its essence, a rose.”
Inside, a rose colored carpet covers the gallery floor, and a video projection on a rose-painted wall shows Italian Sign Language teacher and performer Silvia Consolmagno signing the word “rose” in multiple languages. Sounds will fill the room, human voices making noises that evoke the stages of a flower opening.
Giordano has handmade vases for the installation that will stand on the carpet. The vases are formed from rose petal paste, a substance traditionally used for rosary beads, and they’re shaped to resemble flower vases from well-known still lifes by the likes of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and many others. Even though they’re empty, the vases have a rose scent, adding to the installation’s “essence of a rose.”
In his guide to the show, Taubman Deputy Directory of Exhibitions and Education Patrick Shaw Cable wrote that Giordano’s art typically combines “elegance, poetry, and social engagement.”
This isn’t Giordano’s first show this year to utilize rose petals. Her traveling project “THE WALL OF DELICACY (Ode to America)” imagines a border wall made from threaded rose buds instead of barbed wire.
In keeping with the poetic nature of Giordano’s work, after her Friday talk is finished, Roanoke poet and spoken word artist Ashley Rhame will share poems she wrote for the occasion inspired by artwork in the Taubman’s galleries. On Saturday and Sunday, Giordano will conduct workshops at the museum, showing participants how to make the types of vases she created for her installation.
Giordano’s exhibition isn’t the only one new to the museum. On Aug. 31, the Taubman opened “Julie Speed: East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” A Texas artist, Speed blends oil and gouache paints with collage to create complex, dream-like scenes, sometimes frightening, sometimes funny, sometimes both. “She’s very witty, once you start looking at titles, or her use of politics or religion,” Cable said.
I’ll let readers work this one out. A painting in which a surly couple glares while eating bowls full of tomato soup is titled “Eating Warhol’s Lunch.”
As with Giordano’s creation, Speed’s paintings are full of references to art history that might not be obvious at first glance. A three-panel video projection that accompanies the exhibition helps to highlight the dense layers of detail Speed puts in each painting.
At the moment, the Taubman staff is setting up the next show for its special exhibitions gallery, “POP Power from Warhol to Koons: Masterworks from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation.” Previously the special exhibitions gallery has housed shows such as “Drive! Iconic American Cars and Motorcycles” and “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.” As with those past exhibitions, there will be an admission charge for “POP Power.”
The works on display all come from the 13,000-piece collection of Oregon-based businessman Jordan Schnitzer. “He let me select from his collection,” Cable said.
The artists included will be familiar to aficionados of pop art from the 1960s on, including Warhol, Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince and more. Selections include pieces by two of the most controversial and financially successful artists active today, American artist Jeff Koons and English artist Damien Hirst.
Koons, whose stainless steel sculpture “Rabbit” sold at auction in May for a record-breaking $91 million, made more news last month when a New York state supreme court judge ruled that a lawsuit against a gallery dealing Koons’ art could move forward. According to published reports, millionaire investor Steven Tananbaum, a Museum of Modern Art trustee, is suing Gagosian Gallery Inc. over proposed artworks purchased in 2013 for $13 million that have yet to be completed and delivered.
Needless to say, Koons’ works in the Taubman show are already in hand.