Carol Bove

04.13.09

Carol Bove and Janine Lariviere, Twentieth-Century Narcissus (details), 2009.


Carol Bove is a Brooklyn-based artist known for incorporating made and found objects, primarily from the 1960s, into her works. Her solo exhibition at The Horticultural Society of New York opens on April 15 and features an accordion-fold book, which she discusses here. Her exhibition at the Tate Saint Ives will open on May 15.

TWENTIETH-CENTURY NARCISSUS is a project that Janine Lariviere began in 2002 through her research on flower bulbs and their hybridization and registration. It is essentially a collection of daffodils (cut from catalogs) that are arranged on a time line according to their registration dates. It’s about twelve feet long, and each page represents one year. Although Janine finished the book in 2005, she never published it. When I learned that I had the opportunity to have an exhibition at the Horticultural Society of New York this spring, I wanted to include it since it had introduced an important set of ideas to my thinking about “period eye,” a term that refers to what seems to look good at a particular moment in time. The book will be shown alongside my new abstract sculptures and a collage.

A fair amount of research went into making the book. Janine investigated the hybridization and registration processes for daffodils (i.e., Narcissus), as well as the system for their classification. The appendix to her book contains a clear introduction to a lot of this material.

On one hand, the book is a response to the catalogs that arrived at Janine’s door, which offered a view of commercially available and popular bulbs. But on the other hand, it’s a reflection of commerce itself, which plays a decisive role in the creation, distribution, and persistence of particular flowers.

Janine was working on the book during my 2003 exhibition at Team Gallery in New York. Around that time, she got me thinking about bulb flowers as beautiful but dismissible objects that act as a richly encoded index of culture. In that show, I focused on the late 1960s and ’70s, and I invited Janine to exhibit flowers that were registered during those years to investigate the ways that taste could be perceptible through flowers, or whether period eye manifested through these flowers. Janine planned it so that the flowers would continuously bloom throughout the run of the show, which was a real feat since it was six weeks long. The weather cooperated, thankfully, and we were able to bring flowers to the show nearly every day. If all goes well, the flowers will be at this exhibition, too.

There are flowers that look, to my eyes, very ’60s or ’70s. For the 2003 show, Janine grew a daffodil called Beige Beauty, which is a sweet little mini with a flattened profile and creamy beige color––so ’60s looking. We wanted to get Suede––a brown daffodil from the early ’70s––but she didn’t find it until the ground froze and it was too late to plant. A brown daffodil from 1973 in this time line really seems like evidence of the history of taste! One feature of the book is that it shows not just which flowers were registered or popular during the century but which ones were continually grown. Daffodils are all clones of one another; each cultivar (or variety) is genetically identical, so you can’t renew a variety once it’s faltered. Flowers need to be continually in circulation and nurtured to persist, which always strikes me as such a clear metaphor for the history of ideas.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler