Jeremy Blake-“In and Out of Time”


Jeremy Blake
Winchester Redux, 2004
still from DVD with sound for plasma or projection
5 minute continuous loop
Gift of Polly and Mark Addison to the Polly and Mark Addison Collection, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado at Boulder. 2006.42.1a-c
Image courtesy of Kinz, Tillou + Feigen Gallery, NY

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art recently exhibited a selection of video art from the CU Art Museum’s Video Collection. The exhibition, curated by Lisa Tamiris Becker was called “In and Out of Time.”

As a whole, the exhibit included hits and misses and other than being a selection of video art, it didn’t seem to add up to more than the parts. That said, there are some fine works in the CU Art Museum’s Video Collection: Dan Boord and Luis Valdovino, Mary Lucier, Diana Thater, Gary Emrich, Rick Silva and my personal favorite, a luscious moving painting by Jeremy Blake.

I confess, I knew little about Blake’s work before he walked into the Atlantic Ocean in 2007 and ended his life. I’d heard the name, but we have little access to video art here in the remote Southwest. Blake’s work is a hybrid version of painting and digital art, it is computer graphics morphed onto film, a kaleidescope of abstraction with a narrative story line. It is painted cinema and the cinema of painting.

Blake’s “Winchester Redux, 2004” is a 5 minute continuous loop and was a gift of Polly and Mark Addison to their self named collection at the CU Art Museum. “Winchester” is a paranoid visual trilogy exploring the Victorian mansion built by Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. A monument to private despair, the 160 room mansion was her attempt to ward off the ghosts of her families legacy.

The piece is hypnotic and intense. It draws in the viewer with its beauty and color and then the illusion fades to a dark reality. A rohrschach test. The inner and outer worlds and parallel realities of the work are echoed in the tragic story of Blake and his lover Theresa Duncan. The artist himself claimed to be empathetic to the madness of Sarah Winchester. In 2007, Duncan killed herself and a week later Blake took a train from New York and walked into the ocean.

“My interest in the mansion is rooted in an understanding that the site is more than just a monument to one person’s eccentric fears–it is the tangible outcome of a pileup of social and historical narratives,” Blake writes in the catalog for “Winchester.”

More than a monument to one person’s eccentric fears, Blake’s lush digital painting is a pileup of social and historical narratives, mixed with a pileup of color and ever shifting imagery. A collection of cultural imagery and mythology and the relationship between physical and simulated reality in the digital age.

Blake’s work stole the show for me, but other work that continues to speak to me includes the 26-minute “Noah’s Raven, 1993” by Mary Lucier which is difficult to watch but explores figure and ground, body and landscape, breast reconstruction surgery and glaciers. A four way composite of color and B&W; images. And “Untitled from Edition for Parkett 60, 2000” by Diana Thater an endless loop featuring vividly colored screens, honeycombs, bees and sunflowers was also a visual feast.

Diana Thater
Untitled from Edition for Parkett 60, 2000
still from DVD with endless loop
Edition 52/150
Gift of Polly and Mark Addison to the Polly and Mark Addison Collection, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2004.10ab.
© Parkett Publishers and Diana Thater

CU is in the process of building a new space for their collection and BMOCA is now undergoing its own reconfiguration to allow better access. Perhaps they would consider loaning the video collection to Fort Lewis College. It would be great for students to see and trace this new media collection. And, I really want to see the Jeremy Blake work again. It is elegiac.

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