UVaM - University of Virginia Art Museum


Past Exhibitions

Making Science Visible
The Photography of Berenice Abbott
August 31 - December 16

Curated by Hannah Rogers, Lecturer, Science & Technology Studies
Worthy Martin, Associate Professor, Computer Science

This exhibition explores the photography of Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) and its use in both scientific and artistic contexts. It investigates the impact of her work not only in art but also in science, documentaries, and the history of science education.

Abbott trained in New York as a sculptor, but left for Europe in 1921. In Paris, she became Man Ray's photographic assistant and saw the work of photographer Eugène Atget. Abbott is credited with solidifying Atget's legacy by producing prints from his negatives and promoting his photography. In 1929, Abbott returned to New York and began a series of documentary photographs of the city. She directed the "Changing New York" project for the Works Progress Administration in 1939.

By the early 1950s, Abbott was experimenting with photographs of scientific subjects. She produced images of a variety of objects, from magnets and mirrors to insects and roots, which were included in scientific textbooks. Her images represent an unexpected melding of science and art, which produces an aesthetic that compels the viewer while also conveying scientific ideas. Abbott's photographs offer an opportunity to reflect on not only the ways that science influences art, but also on how art influences science. Abbott's photographs are also singular because of their content. While there exists a long and well-researched tradition of artists' involvement with natural history, Abbott's photographs also include physics images that function as two-dimensional models of physics concepts.

The exhibition features works from The Fralin Museum of Art's collection of Abbott's original photographs, including images reproduced in science texts. This installation celebrates the work of a photographer whose images influenced both art and science.

The Museum's programming is made possible by the generous support of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.

This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Arts$, Albemarle Magazine, Ivy Publications LLC's Charlottesville Welcome Book, and The Hook.

Download exhibition label copy (pdf) >

Members' Preview Reception
Thursday, August 30
5:30 - 7:30 pm
In the Museum

Final Friday Receptions
August 31, September 28 & October 26
5:30 - 7:30 pm
In the Museum

Saturday Special Tour
by Stephen Margulies
September 22
2 - 3 pm
In the Museum

Lunchtime Talk
by Hannah Rogers and Worthy Martin
Tuesday, October 23
12 - 1 pm
In the Museum

by Stephen Margulies
Tuesday, November 13
12 - 1 pm
In the Museum

Light Through Prism, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Berenice Abbott
American, 1898-1991
Light Through Prism, Cambridge,
, from the series
    Science, 1958-1961
Gelatin silver print,
10 3/4 x 13 3/4 in, 27.31 x 34.93 cm
Gift of Harry and Jean Burn,
© Berenice Abbott/Commerce
    Graphics, NYC


About the exhibition