Eleanor Arbor and the Instability and Beauty of the “Death Bloom”

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The Trophy Room, Los Angeles // April 06, 2024 – May 06, 2024

The Trophy Room LA is thrilled to present Death Bloom, a solo exhibition with Los Angeles-based artist Eleanor Arbor.  A “death bloom” refers to the way certain desert succulents, like agave, die as soon as they bloom and produce their seeds. Arbor treats this phenomenon as an extended metaphor for motherhood, exploring the boundary between creation and destruction across her panels.

Whether they show birth or death, Arbor’s bas reliefs are teeming with life. They are primordial and expressive, each wrought in plaster pigmented with earth tones like sage green, terracotta red and cornflower blue. The evidence of the artist’s hand is cut into each relief—Arbor builds each scene with a heavy layer of plaster, then scratches the flora and fauna out of the material. The process is one of revelation, or excavation. Plants shoot up from muddied landscapes; women emerge, undulating, as if from desert mirages. The result is a living archive of emotions, from desolation to hope.

The figures in these works are often adjacent; some face away from one another, while others are intertwined. Several scenes are arranged in diptychs and triptychs, with figures confined to separate panels. The tension between bodies vibrates across the entire body of work. At issue in Death Bloom is the instability of the self, dissolving and reforming in the demands of motherhood.

As Arbor sees it, duality is essential to the experience of motherhood. Women, plants, and animals appear as mirrored images in her work: two naked women exalt an orange sun; two mosquitos dance mid-flight; two aloe plants bloom toward a blue sky. This is the twin nature of a mother’s reality. To create a new life is also to give up your own.

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