A Hayward Touring exhibition from Southbank Centre, London
NUCA is delighted to host this Hayward Touring exhibition of screen prints by the distinguished artist and educator Michael Craig-Martin. Craig-Martin is one of the most influential British artists of recent decades. He was a key figure for the YBA (Young British Artists) generation many of whom he taught in his capacity as Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London. In Alphabet he has produced 26 screen prints in which the letters of the alphabet are overlaid with everyday objects such as a book, a glass of water or an umbrella.
Throughout his career Craig-Martin has explored the iconography of everyday and designer objects. In Alphabet visually arresting images are set against a background of vivid monochrome colours and overlaid with a single letter. In this series, created in his signature style, Craig-Martin plays with the idea of the ABC children’s primer. Instead of a direct ‘A is for Apple’, 'B is for Ball’, the relationship between the letter and image is more ambiguous and requires some guesswork.
Over the past decade Craig-Martin’s practice has embraced digital technology as a tool for working on ideas and compositions. He has used a computer to create an image bank of everyday objects which have been employed in large-scale wall drawings and acrylic paintings on canvas. He drew upon this resource to create Alphabet, which was then produced using traditional screen printing methods.
Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941 and educated in the United States, where he studied at Yale University under Josef Albers. He returned to Europe in the mid-1960s and was a key figure in the first generation of British conceptual artists. As a tutor at Goldsmiths from 1974-1988 and Professor from 1994-2000 he had a significant influence on two generations of young British artists.
This series of 26 screen prints was published by the Alan Cristea Gallery in 2007.
Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was a German photographer celebrated by the Surrealists and early modernists for his pioneering close-up images of plants and flora. Trained as a sculptor he was also an amateur botanist, fascinated by the underlying structures of nature. He created his extraordinary catalogue of studies of natural forms as a teaching tool for the benefit of artists, artisans and architects.
This Hayward Touring exhibition consists of 40 photogravures from an original German portfolio, ‘Wundergarten der Natur’ 1932, edited by Blossfeldt and published in the year of his death. It follows the recent exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. Over three decades, Blossfeldt produced 6,000 photographs, using a homemade camera and lens that could magnify a subject by 30 times, to capture the microcosmic aesthetic of his specimens.
In 1928, the first of three ground-breaking portfolios was published under the over-arching title ‘Urformen der Kunst’ (Artforms in Nature). It became an overnight sensation; Blossfeldt was celebrated for discovering a hitherto ‘unknown universe’ and for his exemplary technical feats as a photographer.
The philosopher Walter Benjamin declared that Karl Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’. He compared him to Maholy-Nagy and the pioneers of New Objectivity, and ranked his achievements alongside the great photographers August Sander and Eugene Atget. The Surrealists also championed him, and George Bataille included his images in the periodical Documents in 1929. (+)