University Art Gallery

KARL BLOSSFELDT

June 1 - September 18, 2005

The German artist and professor at the Berlin College of Art, Karl Blossfeldt, became world famous overnight, when a selection of his photographs of close-ups of plants and plant sections, was published in 1928 under the title of Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature).

Karl Blossfeldt had taken photographs for more than thirty years, but only used them in his teaching. He took photographs with the help of a wood box camera he had constructed himself, and glass plates with coatings that allowed for a high degree of details. He mostly turned the negatives into slides, and used the projected images as a teaching tool, making it possible for his students to experience Nature's inherent design vocabulary.

Although Blossfeldt did not consider himself a photographer, the images are pure and expressive, as well as technically accomplished. As a photographer, Blossfeldt gives us access to a realm that is often too small for the naked eye, while carefully selecting plant parts, that when enlarged, seem to give access to an unknown and mysterious realm of beauty.

Urformen der Kunst featured 120 photogravures. Most of the prints in this exhibition are from that book. Additional prints are from Wundergarten der Natur (Nature's Magical Garden), a collection published in 1932.

Although it is believed that Blossfeldt took thousands of photographs, only a couple of hundred are known today, and his fame is not based on the original photographs, but on the photogravures published in the books.

A copy of either book, with all the plates intact, is quite rare. The copy the University Art Gallery obtained, had plates already cut out and/or missing, and we felt justified in turning a selection of the prints into an exhibition.

The exhibition is a project of The New Bedford Cabinet of Natural History, an institution that we began to plan more than five years ago when the College of Visual and Performing Arts moved into the renovated Star Store in downtown New Bedford.

The New Bedford Cabinet of Natural History focuses on the relationship between art and nature within the context of cultural history. The first project by the Cabinet was the exhibition, Tabernacle, Temple, King, Adulteress: Depictions of Jewish Life and Religion in the 17th and 18th Century. Late in 2004 and early in 2005, we then featured much of the Cabinet collection in the University Art Gallery and the Crapo Gallery spaces.

A selection of objects from the Cabinet is now on display in the Crapo Gallery, where we also, for the first time, are featuring two display cabinets donated by the Falmouth Historical Society, and refurbished by Chad Aldridge (MFA 2005).

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