The 2018 Biennial theme Open Archive sparks a multitude of thoughts and inspiration. Behind each curated show, featured photograph, and careful performance lie layers of narrative and woven experience, charged with texture and intertextuality. Which is why exploring the material behind this year’s exhibitions only adds to the intrigue—and the richness of the conversation.
Modular and multifaceted, the two-volume catalog No Two Alike: Karl Blossfeldt, Francis Bruguière, Thomas Ruff invites audiences to compare the three aforementioned artists in an open, flexible format. It juxtaposes the work of one of the most celebrated contemporary artists, the German photographer Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), with two important photographers of the interwar years, the German Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) and the American then living in London, Francis Bruguière (1879-1945).
While exhibitions of this work typically feature the three artists’ series in different gallery installations, the catalogue offers an opportunity—as the FotoFocus Biennial Guest Curated exhibition of the same name did—to place the work next to one another. No Two Alike publication editor and exhibition curator Ulrike Meyer describes the catalog as “a format allowing for multiple combinations of images and text, and thus questioning the rigid, linear format of the classical exhibition catalog.” The FotoFocus exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, she says, acts as a “restaging of the [1929 London] Blossfeldt/Bruguière show.” It is a response to the theme Open Archive and “a possible look into Ruff’s visual memory.”
Ideas surrounding narrative and metanarrative continue with Mamma Andersson: Memory Banks, a book, show, and meditation on Swedish artist Karin Mamma Andersson’s paintings. In particular, the book is a relation of her photo archive to her work. With reproductions of her paintings, photographs, and even images of her interior studio throughout the book, the audience derives the “narrative” quality that also comes to life in FotoFocus Artistic Director and Curator Kevin Moore’s eponymous FotoFocus Biennial exhibition, also at the CAC.
“Andersson’s work illustrates the close relationship between photography and other mediums, something I always try to stress in my writings and exhibitions on photography,” says Moore. As Andersson’s first solo exhibition in the United States, the show brings an inherent curiosity, especially in light of what’s been called a fantastical, yet “dark and haunting,” sensibility.
Artistic connection—both human and material—surfaces in the idea of Open Archive once again as Moore explores the relationship between French photographer Eugene Atget (1857–1927) and American photographer Berenice Abbott (1898–1991). His FotoFocus show Paris to New York at the Taft Museum of Art expounds upon the book Old Paris and Changing New York, in which Moore, who authored the book, has woven together the story chronicling the two artists’ careers and relationship, from their Paris meeting during the last year of Atget’s life to Atget’s influence on Abbott’s future work—as well as her preservation of his archive, and the career she held in her own right. The book reveals the human, architectural, and artistic histories, communicating how Abbott’s series “Changing New York” reflects their important connection, and Atget’s lasting and undeniable impact on the form.
Books are available in Museum bookstores and on Amazon.