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NYU Fales Library Announces Art Exhibition-‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real): The Work of Robert Blanchon’; Opening Reception Dec. 1-World AIDS Day

November 24, 2009
n-161, 2009-10

Coming 10 years after artist and educator Robert Blanchon’s death of AIDS, the first New York exhibition of his works, writing and ephemera will be spotlighted in an opening reception scheduled Tuesday, December 1st, World AIDS Day, at the Tracey/Barry Gallery of the Fales Library & Special Collections. The Gallery is on the Third Floor of the Bobst Library at New York University, 70 Washington Square South. The two-hour reception begins at 6:30 p.m.

Entitled “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real): The Work of Robert Blanchon,” the exhibition - free and open to the public - was mounted as of November 19 and runs through February 26, 2010. Gallery Hours are Monday-to-Friday, 10:00 a.m.- 5:45 p.m. For additional information, call 212.998.2596 or email fales.library@nyu.edu

At turns playful, brave, probing, and profound, the exhibition marks the transfer of major holding of Blanchon’s estate into the publicly accessible archives of the Fales Library at New York University. It also concludes a multi-year collaboration between the artist’s estate and the nonprofit advocacy organization Visual AIDS to collect and present the work of the late photo-based conceptual artist.

This exhibition provides the public with an opportunity to examine a decade-long history of creation marked by a witty, insightful treatment of loss, memory, and mortality, a mischievousness concerning the pretenses of the art world, and an original treatment of the construction of identity. A conceptual artist, Robert Blanchon (1965-1999) was primarily interested in the photographic medium - specifically, the materiality of the photograph - but worked also in sculpture, video, mail art, text, and performance.

Blanchon’s art is characteristic of the art historical movements of the early 1990’s. Like many young artists of the time, he grappled with the legacies of minimalism and cultural studies, the relation between politics and art, and his own identification as a gay, HIV-positive artist who nonetheless eschewed identity politics as the basis of an art practice. But his rich and diverse corpus brings an opportunity to glance back at the period from an intimate perspective while signaling artistic traits that will be found beyond the 1990’s. Similarly as Paul Thek (1933-1988), David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) and Félix González-Torres (1957-1996), Blanchon sought relevance beyond the poetics of queer culture, and the vulnerability, pathos, and humor of his oeuvre will resonate with anyone who has felt the fragility of being human.

Blanchon died at a moment of increasing exhibition opportunities and growing critical acclaim, leaving unachieved and, for years unviewed, most of his oeuvre. But he was feverishly productive in his condensed life span and left behind a body of work with unusually lucid themes, possibly foreseeing that, only after his death, his works would finally be seen together. It is important to note that he spent his entire creative life with AIDS.

A series of tours and panels will be organized on the occasion of the exhibition, including:

  • “‘You are Cordially Invited’: The Art and Influence of Robert Blanchon,” Tuesday, January 26, 2010, at 6:30-8:30 p.m. This event will be a discussion of Blanchon as a conceptual artist whose work expands and reiterates many of the themes of 1990s art. Through brief presentations and “interviews” with panelists we will explore Blanchon’s connection to artists as well as emerging trends in contemporary art. Throughout his career, from parodies of the art world to AIDS agit-prop to cerebral, minimalist photography, Blanchon gleaned from art history in order to make his own crucial intervention, and taught his students to do the same.
  • “Art or Archive? What Matters To Artists’ Estates,” Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 6:30 -8:30 p.m., a panel discussion on the nature of artists’ estates, their placement in archival repositories, copyright issues, and other concerns about the disposition of artists’ papers. A discussion among professionals representing legal, artistic, and academic, and other institutional concerns, the evening will explore both the theoretical aspects of how an artistic legacy is maintained and offer practical advice on securing an artist’s oeuvre.

About The Robert Blanchon Estate Project
The Robert Blanchon Estate was created in 1999 and directed by the conceptual artist, Mary Ellen Carroll, his good friend and collaborator. In 2002, the Estate received support from the Judith Rothschild Foundation as well as from friends, family and collectors and thus began the invaluable partnership with Visual AIDS. In keeping with its mission to preserve the work and estates of artists having died of AIDS, Visual AIDS collected art works, writings, pedagogical materials, personal effects, and ephemera. Blanchon’s wish to have a monograph published on his work was realized in 2006 with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Visual AIDS published the catalogue distributed by D.A.P., which encompasses the artist’s diverse works and frames recurrent themes like the absence/death of the author/artist and the unaddressed art’s relationship to pre-AIDS, gay culture, as rendered in sculpture, installation, video, and photography. Finally, in early 2009, together with the estate of Robert Blanchon, Visual AIDS finalized the transfer of his archive to the Downtown Collection at New York University’s Fales Library. This was Robert Blanchon’s last expressed desire-having his work placed within a prestigious academic institution that would insure his legacy and the public’s access to his work.

About Visual AIDS:
Since 1988 Visual AIDS has been producing exhibitions, publications, and events utilizing visual art to effect change in the fight against AIDS. As one of the first national initiatives to respond to the AIDS pandemics, Visual AIDS projects like The [Red] Ribbon Project and Day Without Art helped the arts community lead the way towards AIDS activism. Through the Frank Moore Archive Project, Visual AIDS maintains a visual record of the pandemic and the contributions of artists effected by AIDS while providing services enabling many artists to continue their work and further their careers.

About the Fales Library:
The Fales Library, comprising nearly 200,000 volumes, and over 10,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food and Cookery Collection and the general Special Collections of the NYU Libraries. The Fales Collection was given to New York University in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel. The Downtown Collection documents the downtown New York art, performance, and literary scenes from 1975 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Events and Traditions

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Robert Polner | (212) 998-2337

Untitled (Self-Portrait), 1991 Robert Blanchon 1 of 14 portraits courtesy of the Estate of Robert Blanchon

Untitled (Self-Portrait), 1991 Robert Blanchon 1 of 14 portraits courtesy of the Estate of Robert Blanchon


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