Opening Reception: Friday, March 12, 6-8pm
“My way of working, the core of all my sculpture, is a theme, the soul of the piece. Sometimes it is evoked by the material, sometimes it is an idea or concept in my own mind. It is always present, regardless of the material, size or scale of what will be the finished piece... Since I principally use a chainsaw to do this, it is a process that moves quickly. At times the cutting away and forming happen so fast it is almost unconscious… I suppose one could say I enter into a relationship with the material I am using and as in all relationships, there are opportunities for surprise.”
- JB Blunk, 1999
Blum & Poe is pleased to announce the first major gallery exhibition of innovative Northern Californian sculptor JB Blunk (1926-2002) organized by Gerard O’Brien. For decades Blunk has been a quietly underrated household name to sculptors, artists and craftsmen for his sculpture, furniture and installations, which during his time were unprecedented in size and degree of abstraction. The exhibition will include works in a range of scale and spanning the artist’s career from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. A catalog will be produced on occasion of the exhibition, outlining the works and career of JB Blunk, including new texts by Glenn Adamson, Head of Graduate Studies in the Research Department at Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and by Los Angeles based artist Charles Ray.
The artist personally built his home and studio in Inverness, CA, on land gifted to him by surrealist painter Gordon Onslow-Ford in return for his exceptional work on Ford’s own home. The structures are masterpieces in their own right, and now are home to the JB Blunk Artist’s Residency, supported by the Lucid Art Foundation. In his practice, he sculpted mostly from centuries-old cypress and redwood, with stumps often larger than twenty feet in diameter. The artist would study the grain, or burl of a wood piece for days or weeks, and then without the use of sketches or maquettes work reductively on the form. His signature style of using various chainsaws and hand tools came to be greatly influential to contemporary sculpture and woodworking.
JB Blunk studied ceramics with Laura Andreson at UCLA in the 1940’s, and was subsequently drafted into the Korean War. From there, he gained a discharge to Japan, where he sought out the potters and craftsmen who had inspired him as a student. During this time of study, it was through a chance encounter in a Tokyo Mingei (craft or folk art) shop that he would come to befriend prominent artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. Blunk’s friendship with Noguchi would have a profound impact on the path of his life and career, beginning first with an introduction to “Living Treasure” Toyo Kaneshigei. “Living Treasure” was a designation begun by the Japanese government in 1955 for artisans that revitalized historic traditions and methods, individuals who are held in deep reverence by the general public. Eventually Blunk would become one of the first Westerners to be accepted as an apprentice, a position he studied in for over two years.
The artist’s major commissions include a work for landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, an environmental sculptural installation for the University of California in Santa Cruz, and a monumental installation at the Oakland Museum in Oakland, California. Blunk has been the subject of various solo exhibitions, most notably at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in 1978 in Los Angeles, The University of North Dakota, and Oklahoma State University. He has also been included in various group shows including the seminal craft exhibition “Objects USA,” curated by Lee Nordness, inclusion in curator Eudorah Moore’s 1976 California design exhibit, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. J.B. Blunk was awarded an apprenticeship grant from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, two Awards in Sculpture from the California State Art in Public Places Program, and a cultural exchange travel grant to Indonesia from the United State International Communications Association. Public collections include The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, the State of California, Leornard Park, Mt. Kisco, NY, The University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, and the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.