Critics’ Picks

Sean Gerstley, Oval Funnel Planter, 2016, ceramic and white-gold luster, 17 x 8 x 12''.

New York

“The Plant Show”

99¢ Plus Gallery
238 Wilson Avenue
July 29 - September 25

Enter the claustrophobia of the greenhouse, complete with the cloying, damp humidity and the clawed, ecstatic growth of tropical plants. In an alternate reality to Martha Stewart’s Container Garden Ideas for Any Household blog, Simran Johnston has curated a show that marries sculpture to function. But this is no IKEA, and it ain’t no country club, either. In operations variable in their complexity, twenty-four artists carry out their tasks dubiously, adding an asterisk to Martha’s assurance that plants will “purify your home.”

Ryan Oskin’s Amazon Lights (all works cited, 2016) doesn’t elaborate on the traditional potted houseplant any more than a handful of insect-repellant incense sticks driven into an unsuspecting root system. Corey Rubin gives us a new spin on the seeds-in-the-coffee-tin trick with Pepsi Native Sometimes, where a tender shoot seeks out the narrow tab on the titular soda can. Other schemes are more complex, such as Sean Gerstley potting his plant in something not unlike those walkers that allow toddlers to orbit around living rooms (Oval Funnel Planter). Charlotte Patterson’s Autonomy in Restructure stacks vine-clad cinder blocks by resistance, while Cody Hoyt’s Four by Four Palm raises his plant in a puzzle of interlocking wooden arms.

Many of these designs are tantalizingly cruel toward nature: Priscilla Jeong’s flower precariously rests in the shallow water spill of FlaqueD’eau; Eric Pietraszkiewicz smothers his plant between faces of the concrete tiles in Paver Table. The reflective Mylar of Maggie Wong’s Room to Grow shimmers through the transparent walls of B. Thom Stevenson’s Growth Fund—both works seem to happily favor the chilly, synthetic verdure of the green screen over the steaminess of the jungle. These sadistic gestures are appropriate to a society that would rather bring nature indoors than venture outside to enjoy it.