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Olivier Blanckart, MoMA Don’t Preach

P.P.O.W Gallery
535 West 22nd Street, 3rd Floor, 212-647-1044
September 4 - October 4, 2008
Reception: Thursday, September 4, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

P.P.O.W Gallery is pleased to present MoMA Don’t Preach, our first solo exhibition of Olivier Blanckart’s sculptures. Blanckart, born in Belgium, creates life sized figures from pop and high culture out of everyday materials: tape, cardboard, Kraft paper. Through these basic materials he constructs figures with exaggerated characteristics, making revelations about their personas and what they represent.

Critique through humor is Blanckart’s weapon of choice in revealing the absurdities of our cultural landscape. Subverting ideals of beauty, power and expectations can be seen throughout the show. For this installation, Blanckart takes specific aim at the art world and at some of its most respected figures. The title work MoMA Don’t Preach depicts Madonna singing, with one foot on a trampoline. Both Madonna and MoMA are iconic, Madonna as the provocateur and MoMA as the institution that anoints who will be in art history’s canon. The relationship of the pop queen and the gate keeper of high art is linked in more subtle ways too. Indeed, Madonna has been a watermark of provocation but she is complex in her varied histories which include being a spokesperson for AIDS and also a close friend of Basquait, both products of the 80s. There is also a parallel storyline of Basquait’s acknowledged influence of Picasso and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d Avignon, which is in the MoMA collection, and is one of high arts most famous depiction of whores, a label that has been embraced and thwarted by Madonna’s personas.

In Now Art Seemingly Deserves A Quatation, Blanckart plays with the acronym, NASDAQ to highlight the relationship of the marketplace and art. Within this unique era of unprecedented sales, art has become an invested commodity, with the top one percent purchasing work from the top selling artists. The artists shown are Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth and Douglas Huebler, who are replicating the photograph taken of them by Seth Siegelaub in late the 1960s, a period that coincides with the creation of the NASDAQ index in the early 1970s. It is not a coincidence that Blanckart has them posing as if in a police line-up like the movie “Usual Suspects”, but the lines they are measured against is NASDAQ’s graphic chart.

Another grouping of art figures is shown in A-MAN, a play on ‘Amen’ and superheroes which features Robert Ryman, Cindy Sherman and Bruce Nauman. All of these artists play on and play up their respective identities but with exaggerated twists of pop and high cultures. Sherman, known for her role playing and gender bending, is shown here as a harlequin. She is watching Nauman, who is poised in his well know re-enactment of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain with an added reference to the Joker, spitting on Ryman who is flying in the air like a super hero, canvas as shield. This tri-force of artists, giants in the field, are comical in their iconic poses which marks them as more then mortals.

Olivier Blanckart, a self taught artist, was born in1959 in Brussels, Belgium. He is the son of a political prisoner, jailed for years during the 1950s due to his refusal to participate in the French-Algerian War of Independence. Blanckart’s other occupations have included working in a rennet factory, as a docker in fishing ports, homecare nurse for people with AIDS. He is also a certified plumber. He participated in his first exhibition at age 30, in Nice, France, in a group show at The Villa Arson. He has exhibited in the US and internationally including, FIAC 05 and 07 in Paris, France; MAMCO, Geneva and Volta, Basel in Switzerland; The Royal Museum of Toronto Canada, The Swiss Institute-Contemporary Art, NY, NY 2003 & 2005. He is represented by Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels; Loevenbruck Gallery, Paris, Gallery Guy Bärtschi, Geneva.
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