The California-based artist Trevor Paglen is known for photographing U.S.-government black sites in the Nevada desert, spy satellites in the night skies, and underwater cables that power the World Wide Web. He has described his approach as “visualizing modes of control and turning them into artworks.” So why the sudden swerve into flower photography? Paglen’s latest solo exhibition, at Pace in London, is aptly titled “Bloom.” It features several large-scale photographs of flower formations, a nod to the work of Baroque still-life painters of the 17th century.
“Ten years ago, if you’d told me I’d be making a show that had a bunch of flowers in it, I’d have said that you were out of your mind,” the 46-year-old artist, whose work is also the subject of solo exhibitions at the Carnegie Museum of Art (until March 14) and the OGR Turin (October 10 to January 10), told me on the telephone. But the “Bloom” pictures begin to make more sense on closer inspection. The colors seem a little bit off, almost too resplendently flower-like. That’s because Paglen imported his photographs into artificial-intelligence software, which attributed colors by isolating different objects or patterns within the pictures.