Pop Goes the Garden – Culture City :: Article from SRQ magazine by Andrew Fabian


Alternate point plans are affixed under the awning that covers the entrance to Selby Gardens. Painted in cheerful tones of red, yellow and blue, these architectural bandages blend well enough that even regular visitors can wonder if they’ve always been there, but not enough to suggest that reality is buzzing as usual. Once inside the tropical conservatory, a sign on a medium displays text inside a comic book speech bubble and asks an absurd question that begins to explain this slight clash in reality: what’s going on when Roy Lichtenstein enters Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny?

Even asking this question is in itself a little crazy, but answering it requires a vivid imagination with a touch of madness. When Selby Gardens stirred their magical cauldron and concocted the exhibit titled Roy Lichtenstein: Monet’s Garden Goes Pop !, they asked and answered that same question. The immersive exhibition picks up where Salvador Dalí: Gardens of the Spirit left off last year.

“After last year [Dalí] exhibition, so many people have said to me, “Oh, you have to do Monet’s garden,” says CEO Jennifer Rominiecki. But it seemed too easy, too expected. The Dalí show saw the gardens sown with the surreal fantasy that made up his list of recurring motifs, but in Monet’s case, there’s nothing particularly stimulating about planting flowers in a garden that’s already teeming with them. Lichtenstein’s work provided the twist Rominiecki needed. Lichtenstein’s most famous works and, incidentally,
his most critical bias was his large-scale renderings of comic book scenes painted in harsh, flat colors and lines. He also popularized the use of Ben-Day dots as a way to add color in a mechanized way. But his subversion of popular cultural artifacts has also extended to some of his lesser-known works, including a collection large multimedia pieces that reinvented Monet’s garden paintings in a playful pop aesthetic. “Lichtenstein considered Monet’s masterpieces so popular that he thought he could make his own version of them in a commercialized and mass-produced style,” explains Rominiecki, “and these paintings sort of gutted Monet’s work in such a way. playful and fun. “

And it was this very sense of parody that Selby Gardens used as the basis for the exhibition reality questioning vignettes scattered throughout the garden grounds.

“What we did was take a lot of recurring elements from Monet’s work and represent them in a Lichtenstein style,” says Mike McLaughlin, senior vice president of site operations and horticulture. Above the koi pond, a reinvention of water lilies and Monet’s Japanese bridge in which the arched bridge is constructed as a two-dimensional structure and the water lilies in the Lichtenstein graphic style. A colorful koi fish with Ben-Day dots exclaims, “GULP! In a cartoon action graphic. The motif of lilies and bridges continues throughout the park as well as benches painted in turquoise from the Pont Monet in Giverny. Near the mangrove walkway, a massive replica of the facade of Monet’s house features the solid colors and thick black outlines that characterize Lichtenstein’s style.

Lichtenstein’s patterns certainly jump (pun intended), but never to the point of obstructing the natural beauty that springs from the ground. Each two-dimensional element is expressed in the wealth of colors and textures that Monet sought to capture in his Impressionist work and cultivated in real life at home. “We really tried to have fun with this one,” says McLaughlin, “so it all looks like a cartoon even though we did a lot of research on Monet’s house and Lichtenstein’s work. “

If the exterior vignettes showcase the “living” half of the Selby Gardens “Living Museum” brand, then the interior expresses the “museum” half. Dimly lit to protect sensitive pieces, the Museum of Botany & Arts displays several pieces from Lichtenstein’s “Water Lilies with Reflections” series. Three large silkscreens on metal reinvent Monet’s most famous subject in the cartoonish and industrial style of Lichtenstein, with reflective materials and paintings mocking the exquisitely soft gradients in Monet’s work. “At first glance, you might think that Monet’s paintings and Lichtenstein’s copies are totally different,” Rominiecki says, “but in both styles the subject only really takes shape as you move away from it. This is especially true of Lichtenstein’s Haystack parodies, rendered in Ben-Day dots and in their unique, almost abstract way.

Overall, the interior and exterior features of the exhibit are part of the gardens’ goal to go beyond the unique novelty of the typical botanical garden attraction. “What we’ve tried to do with exhibitions like this is to give people something unexpected,” Rominiecki explains, “and it’s about putting our visitors in dialogue with different disciplines. In this case, we wanted to immerse our guests in this surprising juxtaposition that still seems familiar to them. SRQ


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