BECHTLER MUSEUM OF MODERN ART PRESENTS TERESA HUBBARD / ALEXANDER BIRCHLER: FLORA
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept. 22, 2023
– Charlotte's Modern Art Museum First Venue on East Coast to Present Large-Scale, Double-Sided Film Installation –
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept. 22, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is pleased to present Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler: Flora, a multimedia project based on the Swiss American duo's discoveries about the unknown American artist Flora Mayo. Organized by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler: Flora will be on view at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art from September 23, 2023 through January 21, 2024. Flora premiered at the Swiss Pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017, and the Bechtler exhibition marks the first time the work will be seen on the East Coast.
Hubbard / Birchler have been working collaboratively since 1990, employing video, sound, photography, and other mediums to explore connections between history, memory, social relationships, and narratives both factual and imagined. Their double-sided film installation Flora and accompanying work Bust (both 2017) spotlight the life of Flora Mayo, who in the 1920s studied alongside Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, and with whom she had a romantic relationship. While Giacometti is among the most celebrated artists of the 20th century—one who is strongly represented in the Bechtler Museum's permanent collection—the majority of Mayo's oeuvre has been lost or destroyed, and her biography was previously relegated to a footnote in Giacometti's scholarship. Hubbard / Birchler reframe this story from a feminist perspective, bringing Mayo's compelling biography to life through a hybrid form of storytelling that deftly weaves together narration, reenactment, and documentary.
Flora is conceived as a conversation between Flora Mayo and her son, David Mayo—whom Hubbard / Birchler found living near Los Angeles after an exhaustive international search. The two-channel video is presented on opposite sides of a large, custom-built screen, each video revealing a different story while sharing the same soundtrack. On one side of the screen an actress portrays a lively, youthful Mayo creating a bust of Giacometti in her Paris studio; on the other, David shows viewers a treasure trove of his mother's archival material—letters, diaries, and photographs—and describes her later challenges and struggles in life as a single working mother. Flora unfurls as a multifaceted dialogue across place and time: between a mother and son, Mayo and Giacometti, Europe and the United States, past and present, and evidence and imagination.
"Flora is a captivating and timely work," says Bechtler Curator Katia Zavistovski, "one that revives an aspiring woman artist's overlooked life and practice, and challenges us to consider how art history is scripted and whose stories get told."
The Bechtler will also display the related works Bust and Archive, Flora Luella Lewis Mayo (2019–23). Bust comprises a reproduction of a lost photograph from around 1927 that shows Mayo and Giacometti flanking a portrait bust she made of him, and a reconstruction of the no-longer-extant sculpture. The work expands the formal and conceptual layers of Hubbard / Birchler's project, juxtaposing Mayo's narrative of ephemerality and loss with the tangible, material reconstruction of her destroyed sculpture, giving absence both form and weight. Archive reinforces this tension and illuminates Hubbard / Birchler's process of creating Flora. Archive incorporates a selection of Hubbard / Birchler's sketches and journals, as well as a chronology exploring the intersection of Mayo's and Giacometti's biographies. In Charlotte, a new entry will be added highlighting the Bechtler family's close relationship with Giacometti: Hans Bechtler, father of the museum's founder, Andreas Bechtler, was a friend and patron of Giacometti's; in 1965, he helped establish the Giacometti Foundation in Zürich and served as its first president. The Bechtler Museum's presentation will also include a rarely exhibited self-portrait bust by Mayo.
"Showing Hubbard / Birchler's work, and in particular Flora, is fitting for the Bechtler as we expand our exhibition program to embrace global modernism and the contemporary response to this rich art historical period," said Executive Director Todd D. Smith. "The Bechtler is uniquely positioned to host this exhibition as the Bechtler family has a long history with Giacometti, with Bessie and Hans Bechtler having been important patrons and friends of the artist for decades."
Adjacent to Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler: Flora will be the pendant exhibition Giacometti and the Artists of the Grande Chaumière. Drawn from the Bechtler Museum's permanent collection, this section will feature work by an international array of artists who attended the famed Parisian art school, including Giacometti, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Alicia Penalba, Germaine Richier, Kumi Sugaï, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, and Zao Wou-Ki, among others. The exhibition demonstrates the Académie de la Grande Chaumière's embrace of artists from around the world, and further contextualizes the vibrant setting in which Giacometti and Mayo developed their art practices and fell in love.
Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler: Flora is organized by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and is supported locally, in part, by the Infusion Fund and its generous donors. Additional support provided by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.
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SOURCE Bechtler Museum of Modern Art