All the Marvelous Surfaces: Photography Since Karl Blossfeldt

Karl Blossfeldt, Urformen der Kunst (page 41), 1928/29, photogravure, 10 1/4 x 8
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On View Oct 12, 2019 - Mar 29, 2020
Exhibition Location: Museum

Joyce and Edward Linde Gallery, 2nd Floor Galleries

This group exhibition is inspired by German photographer Karl Blossfeldt’s acclaimed Art Forms in Nature (1928), a collection of magnified plant specimens that immediately enthralled viewers with exquisite details of curling flower petals and the fractal growth of leaves. Originally used as models for craft and design students, this body of work is now considered one of the finest photographic projects of the early twentieth century. All the Marvelous Surfaces reorients photography through Blossfeldt’s focus on patterning, scale, and surface detail, establishing his impact on the evolution of modern and contemporary photographic practices. The show delves into issues such as biases against ornamentation, the rise of surrealist estrangement, and the intersections of photography and sculpture throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Drawn mainly from deCordova’s permanent collection, the artists on view range from mid-century masters such as Aaron Siskind and Harold Edgerton to contemporary figures who are advancing the photographic medium today, including Ellen Carey, Matt Saunders, and Erin Shirreff.   

Artists included in the show: David Akiba, Lucas Blalock, Karl Blossfeldt, Doug Bosch, Stephen Brigidi, Maryjean Viano Crowe, Harold Edgerton, Lalla Essaydi, Audrey Flack, Hilary French, Corin Hewitt, Henry Horenstein, Lucy Kim, Justin Kimball, Michael Kolster, Calvin Kowal, Salvatore Mancini, Abelardo Morell, Yamini Nayar, Matt Saunders, Gary Schneider, Kahn/Selesnick, Erin Shirreff, Aaron Siskind, Neal Slavin, Edward Steichen, and Bradford Washburn.

Organized by Sarah Montross, Senior Curator, with Elizabeth Upenieks, Curatorial Assistant.

Photosynthesis at deCordova

Photography has long benefitted from assumptions that it faithfully documents our world. The medium’s supposed neutrality is particularly unquestioned when used for scientific study or journalistic purposes. Upending these assumptions, Photosynthesis encompasses a suite of exhibitions at deCordova spanning diverse topics from botanical design to land art, news reportage to photo-conceptualism—fields that have relied on photography’s ability to zoom, crop, and manipulate objects of study to provide detailed visual evidence. The three exhibitions that form Photosynthesis look back to photography’s origins and foundational artists and photojournalists to contextualize contemporary notions of nature, photography, and truth. (See also: Truthiness and the News and Peter Hutchinson: Landscapes of My Life)

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Member Preview Day
Friday, October 11, 10 am–5 pm

Trustees Members are invited for an exclusive preview day of deCordova's three fall photography exhibitions. Get the first look in the galleries before they open to the public! At noon, deCordova's curatorial team will lead a discussion and tour of the exhibitions. 

The Aesthetics of Nature: Cyanotype Workshop with Kyle Browne
Saturday, October 26, 10 am–12:30 pm

Artist Kyle Browne invites you to take a closer look at the aesthetics of nature through a focused exploration of All the Marvelous Surfaces, walking through the deCordova grounds, followed by creating a cyanotype from natural materials. Participants will reflect on the practice of aestheticizing nature as well as design and print with natural materials to create a personal artwork. REGISTER

Gallery Talk with Artist Lucy Kim
Wednesday, November 13, 6:30–7:30 pm

Join artist Lucy Kim and curator Sarah Montross for an in-gallery conversation about Kim’s work in relation to photographs in All the Marvelous Surfaces. REGISTER

Art Nouveau Mosaic Workshop
Wednesdays, December 4 and 11, 6:30–9 pm

Inspired by exhibition artworks and Karl Blossfeldt’s art nouveau influences, create a nature-inspired mosaic in this two-session workshop with artist Emily Bhargava. REGISTER