Alexander Blank: Totem on the Sideline

Exhibition  /  16 Mar 2012  -  18 Mar 2012
Published: 02.03.2012
Gallery ARTikel3

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Totem on the Sideline encompasses three bodies of work all which exhibit a stunning level of craft and are related to fantastic realities.

Artist list

Alexander Blank
( Text for an former exhibition at Gallery Rob Koudijs by Keri Quick for Art Jewellery Forum)

First Galerie Rob Koudijs has been invaded by animals as Where did the night go? in 2011. Now, for the March-Madness of Schmuck 2012 it happens once more in Munich at Galerie ARTikel3 under the title Totem on the Sideline.

These animals are not scratching at the door or gnawing on the furniture. They sit quietly, poised and ready, steadfastly staring forward; remembering, dreaming, planning, longing.
These creatures want you to do the same, so Alexander Blank would like you to believe.
Blank has created a fantasy world where anthropomorphized animals understand their station and desire more, where the ink skins of cartoon characters can rot away exposing their plastic bones beneath, a place where we as viewers can feel both melancholy and hopeful.
Where did the night go? and as well Totem on the Sideline encompasses three bodies of work all which exhibit a stunning level of craft and are related to fantastic realities.

The work began as a conscious departure from Blank’s conceptual methodology. As a student at the Munich academy Blank reached a moment in his artistic practice where he needed to make with more immediacy, to make something a bit less straight and serious.

“My first intention was to make something really clumsy but in a quite technically perfect way.”

He set about carving what would become his graduation work and the first of his animal brooches. It was the head of a frog, who stared back at him demanding a name.

“It turned out that the guy in front of me was Evil Ed and he needed companions to follow him on his quest.”

A quest for what? For something dark, fantastic, and never-ending. And so Evil Ed & Friends, a series of thirteen black brooches were born, with diabolical names and a sinister mission.

The first group of works in Where did the night go?, Friends – Longing for Darkness, is a sequel or perhaps a prequel to Evil Ed & Friends in ring form. Painted a luminous white, they depict animals with smooth exaggerated features, and vacant eyes. They are monumental in scale, peering forward from the hand that dares to wear them. Blank transforms the rigid foam to conjure alabaster or Carrara marble classical sculpture, yet they are warmer like plaster, more skin-like, and the urge to touch them is irresistible.

Hanging above the surface where Friends rest, is a golden bell. The bell’s clapper? A small black frog. He stares down at the motley crew of white creatures below. Is this Evil Ed? Is the sound of the bell a call to action, a call to join the quest?

“In the new series Friends – Longing for Darkness again 13 animal heads arose, this time as rings… Maybe to hook up on the quest, not to refuse. Gathered like a secret society. Focused, but without knowing the way. Arriving when they want, but always right on time… I like the romantic idea of going out on a fantastic journey, stepping into the unknown, ready for discovery.”

More than simply producing jewelry, Blank creates a world, or more specifically the feeling of a world, of which, these creatures are artifacts or specimens.

“I am happy to be a grown up, but I am feeding the kid in me.”

Blank creates an aura around his creatures in much the same way a child makes up stories about his toys. But the inner workings of this world is left to our imaginations. Blank only reveals that there is a reason, a story behind these beautiful objects, that they are in fact not objects, but alive, with wills and ambitions. The fact is, the details of the narrative aren’t really important.
What is important is that the story never ends, the quest is never solved, and that the protagonists are frozen in a state of never giving up. Although they are physically still, their pointed faces seem to have impetus, as they stare with envy to the other-side. To the dark.
So Blanks creatures live in alternate realities, or at least they did at one point, as is the case with the series Momento Juniori . Resting on specially designed black tables which vaguely resemble giant neo-futurisitc claws gripping the earth, these ivory colored skulls, glow with a melancholic luster.
But these skulls are not human – only human-like in their roles as anthropomorphized animals.
Composed of the craniums of some of the most famous cartoon characters in the world, the series draws on the world of Looney Tunes. Perhaps because the beasts they represent are familiar, loved or when ‘alive’ they exhibited human qualities, we feel a sense of loss at the fate we are witnessing.
As light plays over the surfaces, you are taken with the sumptuousness of the surfaces, giving them a hauntingly realistic quality, realistic that is, if cartoons had skeletons.
Of course they cannot be real because the creatures Blank references only exist on celluloid.
Blank has transformed the heads of the most famous of the Warner Brothers characters into what initially appear to be modern momento mori or vanitas.
But these rapper-bling sized neckpieces are not meant to remind us of the sulek-burcu-emptiness-2015 of earthly life and the certainty of death.
Cleverly titled, Momento Juniori, which translates to ‘remember youth’ is not a nostalgic look to a youth now spent. Rather, to Blank ‘momento juniori’ translates as something more like ‘remember to BE young’.
Wile E. Coyote in particular embodies the spirit of Blank’s series. The doomed coyote fails over and over, trying the latest in sketchy roadrunner catching technology provided by the Acme Company, which tragically for Wile, turns out to be a subsidiary of the Roadrunner Corporation. Catastrophic failure after catastrophic failure, through horrible, repeated physical
injury the coyote never gives up, his desire never waivers. Momento Juniori is meant to remind us of that feeling of youthful invincibility and to inspire our own desire to persist.
It is a reminder that we don’t have to give up every aspect of our childhood just because we grow up.
Blank is certainly not alone in this justification for holding onto that which our inner child holds dear. Now, more than ever it’s cool to be an adult who watches cartoons. Animations have been a presence on prime time for more than two decades starting with The Simpsons. The existence of the Adult Swim cable network, high-end designer toys like Munny and the comic book convention Comic-Con International further prove the entree of cartoon culture as an acceptable part of adulthood and the main stream acceptance of geek-chic.
Momento Juniori has a Hip-Hop sensability, geekchic weirdo styling, with indie rock cool – it is icon jewelry for millennials and generation Y.
Blank is not interested so much in the history of the momento mori as a jewelry object, but more so in using his own history to make this form relevant now.
They are still advocates of a fuller life, but for our contemporary lives. They convey the message that although we are not indestructible like bugs bunny maybe we should live a little like we are.

The third group unofficially under the umbrella Where did the night go? consists of three very new pieces. Materially the planar ‘Jackals’ are very different from the rest of the work presented at Galerie Rob Koudijs.
Unlike their sculptural friends they are formally abstract and oversimplified, as if they are robotic. The large Anubis-like brooches are constructed from mirrored plexiglass, silver and cardboard making them deceivingly light and very wearable despite their large size.
Poised at eye level, your own reflection, at least subtly, becomes part of the work. In that way, these works are the true vanitas. In the Egyptian god of the afterlife – we see our own reflection, or our own animal nature. Their open mouths are laughing, panting, or speaking, calling on us to make the most of what we have. Until we exclaim “That’s all folks!” Or
more appropriately, as Blank himself puts it, “Vamos! Allez ! Avanti! Hop! Ab Geht`er!”

Keri Quick
Alexander Blank. Pendant: Memento Juniori (Bugs), 2011. Rigid foam. Alexander Blank
Pendant: Memento Juniori (Bugs), 2011
Rigid foam
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