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Smell the Roses at the Asian Art Museum's Flower Power Exhibit

The lovely people at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco recently invited Sartle for an early preview of their new exhibit, Flower Power. This original exhibition of striking cross-cultural Asian artwork, which is on view until October 1st, leaves most with a deeper understanding of symbolic interpretations of flowers in art and a select few with a brand new Zyrtec prescription.

Focusing in on just six specific flowers in history - the lotus, plum, cherry, tulip, rose, and chrysanthemum - attendees view a collection of sixty works of art utilizing disparate mediums that convey seemingly parallel themes. This display of bountiful blossoms guides viewers on a journey of the historical and contemporary, which is both stunningly beautiful and deeply meaningful. Flowery language aside (hah), the exhibition is truly a sight to behold as it imbues a sense of connection between the past and present with a look towards the future.

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Attendees are guided between the exhibit’s two installations and two gallery rooms by way of - you guessed it - flowers. In one of her latest works and apparently longest titles ever, Flower Interruption: San Francisco Summer of Love 2017, contemporary artist and all around status-quo-disruptor Megan Wilson painted dozens of colorful blooms both in and outside the Asian Art Museum. These buds become both your evocative roadmap and reflect the common theme of ephemeral beauty as these flowers will be painted over at the close of Flower Power.

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Among the first pieces exhibited is a comparison between a 2500-year-old watercolor and perhaps the most well-known Vietnam era anti-war photograph in American culture. Both works depict the weapons of war being nullified through the power of flowers, albeit the background image utilizes magic instead of, like, hippies man.

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The rest of room one, which I will affectionately call “Calla Calla Bills,” proceeded to really hit the whole ‘flowers have a common theme in art history’ message home. Multiple examples of the six flowers emphasized in Flower Power were shown in varying mediums including paintings, ceramics, and textile fabrics. Hanging from the ceiling were screens showing flowers as they bloomed on a time-lapse making this simultaneously a cool art exhibit and the stock footage for a music video.

The last room displayed two of Takashi Murakami’s shroom-inspired works as well as a digital animation created by teamLab titled Cold Life. This seven-minute long trip-fest is displayed using a high-quality digital projector that casts the animation into a small pitch black room. Inside the room is a single small seat which can be used to assist in your artistic contemplation or for waiting your turn to take a sick #nofilter Instagram picture

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Our last stop on this flower parade was Ling Mingwei’s The Moving Garden, which is cool in that you’re actually allowed to touch the installation instead of the not-allowed touching of priceless artworks you're accustomed to. In this case, Mingwei allows you to take one flower on one condition: you must give the flower to a stranger of your choice once outside the museum. If you don’t, you’re forced to fight in Mingwei’s undead army of art critics for all eternity - just kidding. This piece is all about trust, so do the right thing and give a stranger a flower or don’t. It’s up to you. So you may be asking, did I take one?

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Of course I took one! It’s a free flower and I’m cheap. I immediately gave it to the first stranger I saw sitting on the sidewalk who proceeded to yell at me for giving him a flower instead of change. Hurray, art!

For those wanting more than to just see flowers, you can now become one as the Asian Art Museum attempts to earn the Guinness World Records title for the largest human flower. Up to 3000 members of the Bay Area community will join together on July 15th from 1-3PM to form the shape of a lotus, which can be viewed from the sky. This will occur at the Civic Center Plaza in front of the Asian Art Museum and you can register today at Eventbrite. All participants will receive free admission to the Flower Power exhibition, a commemorative photo, an event poster, chances to win free prizes during the event, and my eternal love. So go out there and become the flower you always wanted to be, I think.

By Austin Turman

Austin Turman

Contributor