Reproduction and appropriation have long been central to the art of Christopher Williams, who studied in the 1970s at the California Institute of the Arts under pioneering conceptual artist John Baldessari. For his 1989 series Angola to Vietnam*
, Williams photographed selected flower replicas from the Harvard Botanical Museum’s Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models. At first glance, Williams’ photographs are evocative of Karl Blossfeldt’s micro-photography of the early 20th
century. Unlike Blossfeldt’s faithful enlargements of buds, leaves, and flowers which were intended as tools for students of art and design, Williams’ photographs are replicas of replicas and their taxonomic classification is not by botanical genus but rather by country of origin.
In Angola to Vietnam*, each of Williams' 'specimens' are titled after countries where political disappearances in 1985 were detailed in 'Disappeared! Technique of Terror' (Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, 1986). Brasil, an unmodified Elle magazine cover and the 28th image in the series, is perhaps the greatest representation of Williams’ penchant for appropriation and a precursor to his images of the 2000s that cleverly blur the line between fine art and advertising imagery.