Monday, September 26, 2005

Artist of the Week (09/26/05)

The hardest of all arts (to create and appreciate) in my opinion is poetry. The poet must acquire a near supernatural proficiency in what I consider the most important aspect of artmaking: perception. In addition to being perceptive, however, the poet must possess the rarest of human gifts, the ability to connect, to see, and then of course to translate so that we can. This makes true poetry ridiculously difficult and explains why most of what's offered up as poetry really sucks. When it doesn't suck, however, poetry has the potential to surpass all other efforts mankind dares attempt in creating something sublime.

Jimbo Blachly is the kind of visual artist I consider also a poet. His media vary, from painted blocks to sheets of ink-lined paper to all kinds of other humble materials, but his constructions (usually dealing with landscapes and nature) are invariably poetic. In fact, his work is often described in terms normally associated with poetry. Consider this example from the press release for a group exhibition, titled "Sprawl," that he was in:

Using landscape as an allegory for the mind, Jimbo Blachly creates fragile, meditative environments on the brink of collapse, using humble materials like cardboard, felt and paper. Elements from nature coexist on the same scale as rudimentary forms of architecture–like a mountain sheltered under a tarp–creating curiously intimate, humanized relationships between natural and manmade environments.
Here's an image of the piece Jimbo included in that exhibition:

Image from Hudson Clearing website.

I first met Jimbo when he was exhibiting with Elizabeth Harris Gallery. Former gallery director Bill Carroll explained to me that it wouldn't matter what type of objects he chose to work with, he would recognize the final composition as one of Jimbo's. I've done a few studio visits with Jimbo since then, and I won't go so far as to say I'd recognize his work regardless of the medium (again, for me at least, poetry is hard), but I have gained a profound respect for his ability to perceive and then translate.

Jimbo was awared the 2002 SculptureCenter Prize, which included the inaugural exhibition in their new massive space. Even the biggest fans of Jimbo's work admitted to being a bit baffled by the installation he offered ("About 86 Springs"). As poetry often will in its own time, the exhibition did seem a bit esoteric, referencing an amatuer scientific study of all the natural springs and wells in Manhattan and the Bronx at the end of the 19th Century. From the Art in America review of that exhibition:

Dozens of small balsa-wood structures were scattered on the cement floor, both within and outside the ambit of a crude wooden sluice system that carried a fitfully circulating trickle of water. At stations along the way, jury-rigged supports, made of wooden boards, two-by-fours and plastic buckets, held a series of salvaged and roughly mended terrariums. By contrast, the balsa structures, each of which centered on a small dark spot of what seemed to be inky water (actually black Plexiglas), were made with a hobbyist's care.

From the vantage of these Lilliputian pools, sheds and wellhouses, many accessorized with decks and trellises, the surrounding space seemed all the more vast. The terrariums, similarly, turned little hummocks of moss and weed into microlandscapes that further amplified the room's scale. Against this evidence, two larger structures--a wooden footbridge truncated midspan and a nearly life-size octagonal shed--were neatly confounding.
Here are two installation shots of "About 86 Springs" (both from the SculptureCenter's website)

A year or two ago now, Jimbo was also awarded the highly coveted Rockefeller Bellagio residency (who wouldn't want to spend a month on Lake Como?), which gathers reportedly amazing groups of scholars, artists, writers and composers. When he returned (reluctantly, he told me) he had begun a series of watercolor and ink drawings the combined the elements of his humble material landscape sculptures with the images of ancient ruins he had seen in Italy. At the same time I believe, but referencing his earlier installations of ink-on-paper drawings, he began one of my favorite bodies of his work, table-top paper sculptures that look like bark. This was the only image of these I could find. In real-life, they're, well, sublime.

From artist Peter Dudek's website.


Anonymous Sky Pape said...

Another fantastic choice for artist of the week. I first became acquainted with his sculpture at E. Harris, but was unfamiliar with the newer work.

After reading this post, may I ask if you know where Bill Carroll is now? I would definitely like to keep tabs on what he is doing, since his work at Elizabeth Harris over the years has been spectacular!

9/26/2005 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Bill went back to get his MFA, in painting, I believe. I haven't seen him since the last exhibition he opened at EHG, but he was very much looking forward to the adventure.

9/26/2005 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Zeke's, the Montreal Art Gallery said...


Y'all might be interested in BGL up here on the other side of the border.

From what you write it appears that Mr. Blachly is mining the same sort of things as they are.

9/27/2005 10:33:00 AM  

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