Smell Is the Last Memory to Go:
A Photographic Installation
with Floral and Fragrance Responses
by Field & Florist
February 13 – April 3, 2022
Opening reception: Sunday, February 13, 3–6pm
Masks will be required for entry, and there will be limited capacity in the gallery;
RUSCHWOMAN asks for the collective safety of her visitors that all in attendance are vaccinated, and even better, boostered.
Lobby and patio spaces will serve as (chilly) accommodations for overflow in crowd.
Following the opening, gallery hours are available by appointment only.
Please contact email@example.com to make arrangements to visit RUSCHWOMAN during the run of the exhibition.
on my block, a gate
on my block, a tree smelling
of citrus & jasmine that knocks
me back into the arms of my dead
mother. i ask Ross how can a tree
be both jasmine & orange, on my block
my neighbors put up gates & stare
don’t like to share, on my block
a tree I can’t see, but can smell
a tree that can’t be both but is
on my block, my mother’s skirt twirls
& all i smell is her ghost, perfume
on my block, a fallen orange
smashed into sidewalk
its blood pulped on asphalt on my
block, Jordan hands me a jasmine
by the time i get home
all its petals are gone
—Fatimah Asghar. “Smell Is the Last Memory to Go,” 2019
I am her ‘she,’ and she is the ‘I’ slipping
from despair to the hope that changes into despair.
My roads do not lead to her door.
My ‘I’ had flown away. For there is no ‘I’ but ‘I’…
We gnawed on stones to open a space for jasmine….
—Mahmoud Darwish. “The Hoopoe,” 1993
Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
It is with actual years of built-up anticipation that RUSCHWOMAN announces an exhibition of conceptual photographic work by the Bengaluru-based artist Surekha. Surekha’s Fragrance of Jasmine, 2002, comprises up to hundreds of photographs in the artist’s archive, and RUSCHWOMAN will host the latest site-responsive installation of this project. The images in this work were collected by the artist from photography portrait studios in Mysore, India that have been operated by three generations of male photographers from the 1960s onward. The collection of images shows portraits of young women—sometimes children—whose hair has been braided with jasmine blossoms cascading down their backs; a mirror directly behind the posed figure shows off the floral arrangement. This play of mirror and the ways a portrait becomes fragmented with multiple views of the same figure are formally striking in ways that correspond to experimental photography throughout the twentieth century onward: other image makers like Florence Henri, Man Ray, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Rachel de Joode serve as compelling context for this phenomenon Surekha isolates from her immediately surrounding culture. The artist also probes into complex gendered power relationships—those between the young female models and the men photographing them, and also these visual artifacts’ relationship to the female artist who has appropriated them.
Installations of this project have been presented internationally at the Musée Guimet (Paris), Ecole de Beaux-Arts (Paris), the Borås Konst Museum (Borås, Sweden), and was also included in the exhibition Post Date: Photography and Inherited History in India, which traveled to the San Jose Museum of Art (San Jose) and the Ulrich Museum of Art (Wichita), and for which a beautiful exhibition catalogue was produced. An edition of the work is also held by the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (New Delhi/Noida).
For this iteration of Fragrance of Jasmine, RUSCHWOMAN has invited Field & Florist to intervene in the exhibition space with floral and fragrance interventions.
Surekha is a contemporary Indian artist who has worked extensively in video, photography, installation, and other media for over twenty years. Her work investigates how tactics of the visual may bear impacts on discourses dealing with gender, ecology, socio-politics, and negotiations of public and private spheres. Her exhibition record is prestigious, extensive, and international, including Kunstraum Kreuzberg (Berlin), the Haus der Kultern der Welt (Berlin), Kastrupgard Samlingen (Copenhagen), Royal Academy (London), Kunstmuseum Bern (Bern), Musée d’ethnographie (Geneva), Aboa Arsanova/Lappenrenta Museum (Finland), Chancery Lane Gallery (Hong Kong), Max Mueller Bhavan (Bangaluru), among many other exhibitions. She was a founding curator of the Rangoli Metro Art Center and a founding member of Bar1, an artist residency in Bengaluru. She has presented on her work broadly, including at the Tate Modern (London) and the Voland Art Academy (Sweden). Surekha received her MFA in Visual Arts at Viswabharati University, while also completing studies in Science and Film. Surekha lives and works in Bengaluru, India.
Field & Florist is a purveyor of flowers and other goods connected to a farm based in Chicago, IL, and Harbor Country, MI, where a tremendous amount of the specimens that go into their designs are grown locally and seasonally. Founders Heidi Joynt and Molly Kobelt have striven to build a program that reveals the networks and interconnectedness that gives shape not only to the flower industry, but to production and consumption, per se. Their Wicker Park premises serves as a workshop for their floral designs as well as a neatly curated store of artist-made and artisanal goods. In 2021, F&F opened a second location Field & Florist Monadnock, which not only extends their flower business, but also hosts a selective inventory of niche perfumery from around the globe. With hundreds of rare, iconic, historically significant, and small batch perfumes on offer, RUSCHWOMAN is thrilled to work with Field & Florist to bring the fragrance of jasmine into Surekha’s installation.
RUSCHWOMAN is located at 2100 S Marshall Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60623. After the opening weekend, Speculative Magenta Hauntology will be viewable only by appointment. Those interested in visiting the exhibition may contact the gallery through her website ruschwoman.blue/info, where directions to the space whether by driving or public transit are also available.