“The Naturalist Gathers”


In its arrangement of images that span the history of art, and film stills, book illustrations, postcards, and advertisements, “The Naturalist Gathers” presented a genealogy of the process of collecting, ordering, and observing. Devoid of “original” artworks, this fabric of pictures portrayed the world as a chain of mediated representations, illuminating how we organize experience and construct an “archaeology of knowledge.” Composed of materials from curator Douglas Blau’s own collection, this picture gallery within a gallery became something akin to an encyclopedic vanitas, filled with images of libraries, museums, archives, and still lifes. It evoked the mystical materialism of Walter Benjamin’s essay, “Unpacking My Library,” 1931, in which he designates collectors as the “physiognomists of the world of objects,” and suggests that a collection is not merely an inventory but more

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