Rose Eken

NYC Ghosts and Flowers, 2020-2022

Glazed paper clay

50 × 50 × 50 in

Presented by Alchemy Gallery, Booth C13

NYC Ghost and Flowers” is a “shrine” to the old New York. It mirrors a makeshift temporary street memorial, occurring as a spontaneous collective need to commemorate something or someone; a way to express shared sorrow. Yet there is also a permanence about this particular collection, as each and every object has been meticulously hand modelled, fired and glazed in ceramic.  

The almost three hundred objects in this shrine all refer to a place, a period, a person, an artist, a musician, an author, or a specific event relating to New York City, spanning a timeframe from around the 1900s until now. Amidst flowers and candles, you will for instance find a small bust of Emma Goldman and a copy of her biography Living My Life next to a mandolin with the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on it, as it was on Woodie Guthrie’s guitar. Other items are The New York Dolls’ debut album, the front page of the Daily Mirror from the day John Lennon was shot and killed, several stuffed crochet animals from Mike Kelly’s installations, also used on the cover of Sonic Youth’s 1992 studio album Dirty. A sketchbook by Patti Smith, an Andy Warhol souvenir mug, Ramones worn out black Converse, Aron Rose’s hand painted skateboard and spray cans, flyers, pins and prayer candles from Alleged Gallery by the artist surrounding the Lower East Side gallery space in the 1990s – and much, much more.  

Crisscrossing collective history and personal memory, “NYC Ghosts and Flowers” accumulates and superimposes diverging moments in time. Shrines usually act as memorials for the lost, but here, these artefacts of creativity, rebellion, and the desire for emancipation seem to evoke the progress we have made so far, while supplying hope for an uncertain future. 

While working at punk music venues as a teenager in Copenhagen, Rose Eken developed a fascination with concert detritus. The objects she was made to clean up after an event—cigarette butts, drug paraphernalia, beer cans, discarded clothing, and lost cell phones—became emblems of punk rock culture, which she now reproduces in the form of hand-painted ceramic miniatures. Sculpting objects found in concert halls, kitchens, and similarly ubiquitous locations, Eken methodically places replicated detritus in a grid, suggestive of scientific categorization. Her arrangements assume an anthropological quality, documenting and preserving the relics of a culture and celebrating a history in process. While Eken also produces embroideries, drawings, and videos, she favors clay for its versatility and clumsy form, as shaping and firing warp the object along the way, resulting in unforeseen and unpredictable imperfections.