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Philodendron: From Pan-Latin Exotic to American Modern

October 16, 2015–February 28, 2016
The Wolfsonian–FIU @ 1001 Washington Avenue

Central and South American flora took center stage in Philodendron, a sprawling exhibition that charted the migration of tropical plants from their native habitats to North American and European gardens and interiors. Spanning three centuries and drawing together objects from the Amazon, Caribbean, and beyond, the survey explored this often-overlooked, Pan-American cultural exchange to deconstruct the “social lives” of the plants, from their influence on material culture to their impact on diverse fields ranging from the visual arts, architecture, film, and fashion to the agricultural, industrial, and medical sciences.

By following the philodendron from the jungle to the home, the exhibition illustrated the myriad ways the plant shaped Western ideas of the tropics—becoming an evolving symbol for what is exotic, Latin, and modern. Philodendron included objects created by indigenous Amazonian peoples; botanical drawings by Heinrich Schott, who first classified hundreds of Philodendron species; and works by such artists and designers as Henri Matisse, Roberto Burle-Marx, Paulo Werneck, and Erdem. Also on view were a series of four contemporary art installations in The Wolfsonian’s lobby, including an immersive installation that used columns of locally cultivated, live plants to evoke a jungle paradise within the museum.

Philodendron: From Pan-Latin Exotic to American Modern was made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award.