photogravure

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KARL BLOSSFELDTART FORMS IN NATURE

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. (+)

Image from page 467 of “Ontario Sessional Papers, 1916, No.17-18” (1916)

Archaeological Report, p95
This cache of war flints was found by Joseph Stewart, Esq. His description of the find is as follows: “I was travelling about two miles north of Thedford, Lambton County; and, in going where the road passed through a deep cut in the bank of the Sauble River, I saw an arrow-head at the bottom of the bank. I then commenced to scrape away the sand under the roots of an old pine stump that stood at the top of the bank and before I finished my labours one hundred and sixty-six came sliding down from under the roots of the old stump.” These war points are very thin and as can be seen by the photogravure very uniform in size.

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The following images are a collaboration between myself and a QTPOC poet/spoken word artist.  I took their portrait and gave them a packet that included a copy of their portrait, a sharpie and tracing paper and asked them to hand write some of their work around their portrait.  The text was completely up to them.  

I took that tracing paper, created a screen and screen printed that around the one of a kind print.  Julissa is the first of many to come.

Julissa. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle and silkscreen, 11x14, image size 8x10. Gabriel Garcia Roman

Dr. Dain Tasker- Lily, 286x210mm, Photogravure. 1936- Printed 1937.

In the 1920s, light, and in particular the exploration of light through technological and scientific innovations, bridged the distance between artists and scientists. New inventions such as the X-Ray for medical uses in 1925 (previously x-ray machines were astronomically expensive and only available in few government facilities) led to new medium for artistic expression. 

 

In the early 1930’s, one such scientist, Dr. Dain L. Tasker (American, 1872-1964), pioneered the use of x-rays as art, creating beautiful images of flowers. Dr. Tasker’s X-rayography, or rayography as it became known, composes his images poetically by positioning the flowers or shells in ways that tell a story.

Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960), Counting, 1991, photogravure, Museum Purchase: Robert Hale Ellis Jr. Fund for the Blanche Eloise Day Ellis and Robert Hale Ellis Memorial Collection, © artist or other rights holder, 92.23

This work is not currently on view.

"… a large coil of braided hair repeats the pattern of bricks in the image of a circular slave quarters above it, at once marking the distance and proximity to the past." - Kelly Jones