Abbie Zabar | Bodega Bouquets

Eerdmans is pleased to present Bodega Bouquets, twenty colored-pencil floral drawings by the artist-author-gardener Abbie Zabar. The exhibition sees Zabar—a vibrant fixture of New York City’s horticultural scene, whose artwork has been shown at MOMA and the Louvre—tap her acclaimed affinity with flowers and foliage to depict decidedly simple arrangements. In each 9-inch-by-11-inch work, there’s a small bunch of blooms she’d picked up from her local bodega, the supermarket—wherever—then brought home, set in a jar, and proceeded to render masterfully.


April 27-May 26, 2022


In the Green Parlor
14 East 10th Street
Between 5th Avenue and University Place
New York, New York 10003

Open Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–5pm

In terms of Zabar’s chosen arrangements, Bodega Bouquets is a striking departure from the body of work she spent a decade of her life creating: every week from 1995 to 2005, she drew the classical floral installations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each Monday, celebrated Met florist Chris Giftos would install his soaring designs in the Great Hall’s five urns, and the following Saturday, Zabar was given special permission to come in before opening hours to draw them. (“By the weekend, the arrangements were falling apart,” she says. “That’s when Chris and I thought they looked the best.”) The series, shown in 2015 as Flowers in the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at Wave Hill in the Bronx, stands as a lasting record of Giftos’s fleeting artistry and a testament to Zabar’s creative stamina. However, Zabar, at heart a gardener, began to crave simpler subjects.

I thought, as much as I’ve loved drawing these grand bouquets, these aren’t the ones that are dear to my heart. I like bouquets to be intimate.”

Bodega Bouquets was born. “It’s the antithesis of the Met flowers,” Zabar says. “I don’t really like important flowers, important arrangements. I like inconsequential arrangements. You pick up some flowers and you just put them there. It pleases me enormously. You come around the corner and catch them out of the side of your eye—it’s a wonderful little treat.”

And so in Bodega Bouquets one sees a frail pair of tulips, or some hyacinths (“just as they’re opening up,” Zabar says), or feverfew (“I love drawing weeds”), or dahlias (“but tiny dahlias, polka-dot dahlias—they’re really sweet), or chrysanthemums (“tiny mums”), or daffodils (“just barely up in their sheaves”), all in an old canning jar, or a cheap green-glass vase, or a chipped creamer.

While the scale of the arrangements is different from the Met drawings, Zabar’s technique is the same—and in fact was born of her work at the museum. Zabar couldn’t bring a liquid medium into the Met, so, relishing the challenge of the limitations, she began to use waxy colored pencils on museum board (an eight-ply cotton-fiber archival board).

“I really lean into it,” Zabar says of the process, which she’s continued through to Bodega Bouquets. “I don’t use the pencils ephemerally. I don’t treat it like a delicate sketch. You have to be strong in your line. I’m breaking points like crazy over here.” Once the drawing is complete, Zabar applies a fixative that lends a high gloss to the pencil work but leaves the surrounding board matte; the effect is close to an oil painting.

Born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Zabar moved in 2001 across the park to East 86th Street, where she maintains a famously fecund garden on her corner terrace (“A Tiny East Side Aerie, Cool and Forested,” The New York Times, 2009). She’s the author and illustrator of five books, beginning with 1988’s The Potted Herb, now considered a gardening classic. In addition to MOMA and the Louvre, her work has been shown at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, the Parrish Art Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), and the Vigeland Museum (Oslo). It’s also in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, the Jewish Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.