There are two sides to “Flora,” a film exhibition that opens Sunday at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth.
One side is in black and white, depicting reconstructions of the life of the late artist Flora Mayo, the subject of the exhibition; while the other side is in color, with clips and sound clips of Mayo’s son David.
It’s a movie “conceived as a conversation” between a mother and her son, sharing the same soundtrack and meant to be experienced from both angles, according to the Modern.
“Flora”, along with its corresponding sculpture, “Bust”, is both the work of a married couple and artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. Hubbard and Birchler, who are based in Austin and teach at the University of Texas, were intrigued by Flora Mayo’s life after reading about her in James Lord’s biography on famous Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti.
Mayo and Giacometti had a love affair in Paris in the 1920s, and while Giacometti became one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Mayo’s works were destroyed – his career went largely unnoticed and his memory is only “a small footnote in [Giacometti’s] biography, ”said senior curator Andrea Karnes.
That was to change when Hubbard and Birchler embarked on a research project that delved into Mayo’s life. When they found their son living in California, he became the lead voice in the documentary the couple filmed and later presented at the Swiss Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale.
The sculpture, “Bust”, is the reconstruction by Hubbard and Birchler of the destroyed portrait of Giacometti by Mayo. The sculpture and film have been part of Modern’s permanent collection since 2019 and are finally making their debut after being delayed by COVID-19.
“[Hubbard and Birchler] end up creating a hybrid story that includes truths and reconstructions, history, memory and reenactment – all of these things come together to tell the story of this marginalized American artist, ”says Karnes.
“Flora” and “Bust” will be on display until January 2, 2022. Ticket information is available at themodern.org.