The 73 photographic plates in Robert Voit’s The Alphabet of New Plants each frame a different floral detail, from bursting blooms to twisting branches. But all is not as it seems, as on closer inspection those petals are frayed fabric, the stems stiff plastic. Voit’s series is inspired by another German photographer’s work — Karl Blossfeldt’s 1928 The Alphabet of Plants — and considers the uncanny nature of our fake plants.
“In hundreds of photographs of plants that have not been retouched or artificially manipulated, Mr. Robert Voit from Munich has provided proof of the peculiar yearnings for a form created equally by the human spirit and by the natural processes of vegetal growth,” writes author and curator Christoph Schaden in an introduction to The Alphabet of New Plants, which was recently published in English and German by Hatje Cantz.
The black-and-white photographs of the plastic plants follow Voit’s New Trees series. Since 2003, he’s captured large-format images of cell phone towers around the world disguised as trees, such as a faux cactus in the desert of Arizona, or an oversized palm tree-shaped mast dwarfing the real palm trees in Las Vegas. Like the New Trees, the New Plants have a playful absurdity, showing the viewer at once something that’s beautiful for the natural forms they borrow, but cheapened by the rough, human-made edges. As simulacra, the plants only pass for the real thing at a glance, and often seem to be imaginary flora entirely, yet they still show the diversity of nature in this reflection, with cacti, succulents, lotus flowers, pine branches, and other forms among the mass-produced replicas.
Blossfeldt himself was more interested in recording these shapes and patterns than creating a straightforward scientific text, the unusual details he documented catching the attention of Surrealist artists and fans like Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille. Using a handmade camera, Blossfeldt magnified the symmetry of a single blossom or the curl of a tendril into something monumental. The cover of New Plants has a winding Blossfeldt tribute, albeit with a synthetic fuzz coating this tendril.
Steffen Siegel of Folkwang Universität der Künste writes in his essay: “A doubled play with mimicry unfolds in Voit’s twofold appropriation — on the one hand, photographic style from Blossfeldt and, on the other, an entire world of artificial flowers — and does so with an effect that is as curious as it is remarkable.” It’s also slightly dystopic, methodically presenting the 21st-century decorative plant as an alien substitute for nature.
A total of 24 board members stepped down from their posts after the art center’s parent company allegedly attempted to terminate 12 of their colleagues.
A group of artists and writers denounced the center for hosting Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the country’s former dictator.
This new kunsthaus in Potsdam shows modern and contemporary works of art from East Germany in what was once a terrace restaurant.
Xenobia Bailey, Jeffrey Gan, Elizabeth G. Greenlee and N.E. Brown, Siera Hyte, Maru López, and Olivia Quintanilla will contribute to a Hyperallergic Special Issue on underrepresented craft histories in 2023.
An investigation by Forensic Architecture and Al-Haq into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh looked at previously unseen footage and unpublished autopsy reports, among other evidence.
The Philadelphia organization offers artists on-site access to recovered materials, studio space, construction equipment, a $1,000 stipend, and more.
This week, a Keith Haring drawing from his bedroom, reflecting on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, you’re not descended from Vikings, the death of cursive, and more
Eros Rising at New York’s Institute for Studies on Latin American Art demonstrates that eroticism might be closer to the cosmic than to the terrestrial in its infinite manifestations.
Drawn to Life at the Ackland in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, showcases 17th-century Dutch drawings of landscapes, portraits, preparatory studies, and biblical and historical scenes.
I was curious to see Casteel’s first exhibition since her New Museum show. I was not disappointed.
Stephanie Syjuco’s exhibition Double Vision points to the role that museums play in perpetuating narratives about the people, places, and events of the American West.
This is what happens when boozed-up patrons party next to priceless mosaics, statues, and vases.