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 of pop idols and high culture icons, referencing well-known photographs. They are made from diverted packaging and retail shop materials: adhesive 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 are 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 friend of Basquiat, both identified with the era of the 80s. There is also a parallel storyline of Basquiat's acknowledged influence of Picasso and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d Avignon, which is a touchstone in the MoMA collection, and is high art's most famous depiction of a brothel.
In Now Art Seemingly Deserves A Quotation, Blanckart plays with the acronym, NASDAQ to highlight the relationship of the new marketplace and new 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 depicted are Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth and Douglas Huebler, replicating in sculpture the photograph taken of them by Seth Siegelaub in the late 1960s, a period that nearly 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-MEN, (a play on 'Amen') a trio of super-artist-heroes 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. In the middle, Ryman/RY-MAN the super-hero-artist has suddenly jumped out of a white canvas with vengeance on his face. Sherman/SHE(R)-MAN, known for her role playing and gender bending, is shown here as the supervillainess HARLEY-QUINN and she is targeting RY-MAN. Nauman/NAU-MAN, who is poised in his well know re-enactment of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain appears strangely in the outfit of the supervillain The Joker, spitting toward Ryman/RY-MAN who is flying in the air with his 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 started as a certified plumber but his other occupations have included working in a rennet factory, as a docker in fishing ports, home care nurse for people with AIDS during the early 90s.
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