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No Two Alike: Karl Blossfeldt, Francis Bruguière, Thomas Ruff
No Two Alike: Karl Blossfeldt, Francis Bruguière, Thomas Ruff restages the 1929 exhibition of plant photographs by the German sculptor Karl Blossfeldt (1865—1932) and photographs of cut-paper abstractions and multiple exposures by the American photographer, then living in London, Francis Bruguière (1879—1945). The exhibition, held at the Warren Gallery in London, celebrated the launch of their two books Art Forms in Nature and Beyond This Point. A surprising pair, Blossfeldt and Bruguière intrigued critics as being “quite different from the usual run of photographic shows.” No Two Alike reunites these two important modernist photographers for the first time since the legendary exhibition and juxtaposes their work with the Photograms and Negatives series by the German contemporary artist, Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), whose interest in and reaction to the history of photography has formed the background for many of his series. Ruff appropriates six of Blossfeldt’s plant motifs in his Negatives series. By comparing the work of these three photographers, emphasis is placed on a common interest in the variant, which Walter Benjamin once described as the creative principle behind Blossfeldt’s close-ups of plants. Bruguière, too, was working through infinite variations in his photographic abstractions. Like his historic counterparts, Ruff has always worked in series and variants, and in this instance presents variations of themes originally explored by Blossfeldt and Bruguière. The encounter of these three artists makes the similarities and subtle differences within their own bodies of work visible, but it also presents each of the three artists’ oeuvre as a variation of the other.
No Two Alike: Karl Blossfeldt, Francis Bruguière, Thomas Ruff (Verlag für moderne Kunst) is published on the occasion of the FotoFocus Biennial 2018 and the exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati.
Mamma Andersson: Memory Banks
Painters often draw from existing visual materials, such as photographs and reproductions of past works of art, to inspire and construct their work. Swedish artist Mamma Andersson (born 1962)—known for her dreamlike, faintly narrative compositions inspired by Nordic painting, folk art, newspaper photographs, and cinema—is no exception.
But Andersson takes this process a step or two further, importing images of stacks of books and stray photographs, clipped from various sources, directly into her painted compositions. With careful observation, Andersson’s dreamy landscapes and interiors (often combined) slowly come to reveal common imagery and accumulated biblio-ephemera filtered through, and sharing space with, the artist’s muted palette, melancholic scenery and textural paint. Mamma Andersson: Memory Banks focuses on this aspect of Andersson’s painting practice, exploring how her use of appropriated imagery and collaged elements charges her paintings with an eerie, uncanny sense of familiarity while indulging in wholehearted fantasy and suggestive narrative.
Karin Mamma Andersson was born in 1962 in Luleå, Sweden. She studied at the Royal College of Fine Arts in Stockholm, where she continues to live and work. Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld, Germany; the Aspen Art Museum; and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. In 2003, she represented the Nordic Pavilion in the 50th Venice Biennale. In addition to Memory Banks, she is the 2018 recipient of the Guerlain Drawing Prize, Paris, and a participant in the 33rd Bienal de São Paulo.
Mamma Andersson: Memory Banks (Damiani) is published on the occasion of the FotoFocus Biennial 2018 and Andersson’s exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati.
The Fold: Space, time and the image
Acclaimed Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari combines the roles of image-maker, archivist, curator, filmmaker, and critical theorist to explore the performative role photography plays in fashioning identity. As one of a handful of young artists who emerged from fifteen years of civil war and a short-lived era of experimentation in Lebanon’s television industry, his work demonstrates an enduring appreciation for amateur, journalistic, and commercial photographic practices. Zaatari is also a co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF), an organization established in Beirut to preserve, study, and exhibit photographs from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab diaspora from the 19th-century to today. Within this endeavor Zaatari discovered the photographs of Hashem El Madani (1928–2017), who recorded the lives of everyday individuals inside and outside his humble Saida studio in the late 1940s and 1950s. These photos are deceptively factual in appearance, sliding between demure documentation and revealing displays of subconscious desire that exceed the capacity of the lens.
In an interdisciplinary practice that thereby positions lens-based media as both specimen and subterfuge, Zaatari participates in the discourse against photography and its complex archival legacy. For this exhibition he positions the seemingly simple fold as a narrative form, a reorganization, an enduring obfuscation, and the memory of material. In his words, “a photograph captures space and folds it into a flat image, turning parts of a scene against others, covering them entirely. Every photograph hides parts to reveal others… What a photograph missed and that was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.” The work on display will attempt to uncover and imagine these stories, undertaking a provocative archaeology that peers into the fissures, scratches, erosion, and that which archives previously shed. Surveying the fertile interstices, Zaatari explains, “Unfolding is undoing, deconstructing, turning material back to its initial form.”