In Los Angeles, Two Shows Look at Artists to Know
AND AT THE LANDING, J.B. BLUNK
An exhibition of works by the late artist J. B. Blunk marks the opening of the Landing at a new warehouse location in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. Primarily known for his massive wood sculptures and artisanal furniture, Blunk was active throughout the second half of the twentieth century in the Northern California artists’ community at Inverness. His work reflects the broad range of influences in his life’s experiences, from his time studying pottery in Japan through his friendship with the famed sculptor Isamu Noguchi to his association with the surrealist painter Gordon Onslow Ford and the Dynaton movement. Having admired the way in which the Japanese potters lived off the land, Blunk attempted to make full use of the resources provided by the forests around his home, which drew him to the medium of wood. As a sculptor, he experimented with chainsaws and other industrial machine tools, which enabled him to carve with a remarkable sense of texture and precision on a large scale.
“Few artists convey such a sense of place through their work,” says the Landing’s owner and curator Gerard O’Brien, who has worked with the Blunk estate since 2005. Relocating from its elevated partition in O’Brien’s Reform Gallery, the Landing’s new warehouse building offers a more traditional exhibition space that can accommodate artists who work on the scale of Blunk. The show features five freestanding sculptures intermingled with ceramics, smaller wood pieces, and paintings on wood panels and rice paper. While he often questioned his own status as an artist, the paintings reveal a side of Blunk rarely seen by even the most dedicated collectors of his work. These paintings, done privately in spurts, beginning around 1970, demonstrate his dedication to making full use of his material and his experimentation with the automatic painting techniques of the surrealists in the Dynaton group. The wood panel series repurposes discarded materials from his carving, with the brushstrokes along the wood’s grain referring back to the chainsaw cuts from his sculpting process. For O’Brien and the Landing’s newly appointed director Sam Parker, this exhibition offers a new perspective on an important yet somehow still underappreciated artist. thelandinggallery.com