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Zander Blom

Breakfast without the Bacon

by Ed Young / 17.09.2010

It all came as a bit of a shock one morning when we were told that rockstar artist Zander Blom had left the Whatiftheworld stable for the Michael Stevenson international powerhouse. The news also came a few mornings after having breakfast with artist Charles Maggs who cried and said: ”I really don’t understand it. Michael isn’t calling. I wait everyday and he just doesn’t call.”
But Blom got the call and his parents were very happy. The majority of the exhibition had apparently sold out prior to the opening.

The work is very unlike the artist’s previous show, a mere few blocks down Woodstock’s main road. There are paintings, drawings and photographs on the walls and the show is titled PAINTINGS. DRAWINGS. PHOTOS.

Exhibition halls are filled with ginormous paintings on unbleached linen with nothing on them but blotches of really thick oil paint that makes the gallery smell like Pratley’s Putty. They are really big and extremely ugly and resonate the first year painting studio where kids say they want to become painters. Compositionally they are ok, but in actual fact they are merely bits of Francis Bacon without the Bacon. And one is not sure if the cool oil blotches surrounding the paint will eventually rot away at the linen. Or whether this is intentional. The paintings are numbered instead of titled in a bit of a Martin Creed fashion.
Blom explains: “Figuring out your next move, brushstrokes staring back at you from the tussle of the night before. At home in Johannesburg my focus has shifted from making photographic works to working on oil paintings, having naturally gravitated towards a medium that I’ve loved from afar but previously only skirted around, flirted with and examined endlessly. Oil painting, which is not without its fair share of historical baggage, has finally ended up right in the centre of my life. In turn my house has evolved into a ramshackle painter’s studio. Now I find myself in my ever-changing swamp, knee-deep in references, smeared with paint, avoiding email, watching the paintings paint themselves, and seeing all the little degenerates pile up in the garage.”
This is all a bit of romanticised codswallop. But these colourful turds and vommies that occupy the canvas surface leave one with a trace and a sense of happiness. And one is left to ponder why… But maybe it is the sweet realisation that one less artist will go without supper tonight.

There are also some drawings on display but no one seems to remember them because of the sheer dominance of those god-awful paintings.

Zander Blom
The Black Hole Universe, Chapter 2. Scene 001, Berlin, 2010, C-print on Kodak Endura metallic gloss paper, 87 x 60cm, Edition of 3 + 1AP.

A definite highlight of the exhibition is that of the development of Blom’s photographs of corners of rooms titled The Black Hole Universe. Blom have been doing these for a while. Although they are not that outstanding as artworks, they definitely stand out in this exhibition because of their sharp qualities combined with good composition and the power of the Black and White photograph. But maybe it’s just cool kid skinny pant formalism and maybe they are quite meaningless. But at least they are pretty.
We don’t buy it. But some do. Why this sudden departure into this kind of decorative Cavendish Square 70’s hangover? This may be an artistic genius breach – or the influence of a new girlfriend/gallery (suppose they are pretty much the same) – or too much AC/DC in the studio. Who knows?
Or maybe it’s just about the cash.

*Opening Painting Caption:
1.1o Untitled
2010
Oil and graphite on linen
198 x 140cm

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RESPONSES (20)
  1. check me skeef says:

    What did Roger say recently about something being so kak that it’s brilliant?

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  2. Ed_Groupie says:

    Great review, Ed. “Cool kid skinny pant formalism”: I need that on a t-shirt. The work looks shit. I had a look on the website, and thought ‘oh dear God, is it now a prerequisite for MS artists (Siopis, Edmunds) to be flirting fashionably with abstraction?’ It also seems that Jean-Henri Booyens’ work and Blom’s are now fully interchangeable. Like art IKEA. Cool.

    Point of fact: Johannesburg’s Rooke Gallery (bless it’s little uber-marketing heart) was hugely instrumental in developing Blom from early in his career. I would imagine Gavin is crying big tears since his protege flew the coop.

    Seems Mikey Stevey’s new business model involves waiting in the shadows while other galleries develop artists; then, when they have proven themselves, he waves tickets to the Armory and Frieze under their noses. It’s like a small, mucky microcosm of monopoly capitalism.

    Still, I wouldn’t be so bitchy if he was returning MY calls… “only yooooooou/can make this world seem right….”

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  3. Chucky says:

    This is what happens when very clever, very pampered young white boys crawl into their sphincters and think they see God near their colons.

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  4. Pariah Carey says:

    @Ed Groupie, Siopis and Edmunds have always ‘flirted with abstraction’ as you put it,I don’t think there’s any ‘fashionable impulse behind that. I liked Ed’s work ‘Yoko Ono’, as a visual pun.

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  5. engel naaier says:

    well said Chucky…

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  6. Tim says:

    I’m with Chucky on this one too. Artists who make kak work should be held accountable. One bad exhibition – 40 lashes. Two bad exhibitions – Stoning! Fits right in with the tip our Gov is on right now.

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  7. GOW says:

    IMHO the revival of the visceral tactile qualities inherent in the abstract approach is refreshing, especially since the reigning paradigms in art the last few years have been so disgustingly pseudo-intellectual, not dissimilar to Ed’s review that teeters beyond the work too much and appears to have a very limited understanding of abstract art in general, not even mentioning the reception of abstract works.

    The works don’t make me gasp, but the review is far worse than the paintings.

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  8. Strawdog says:

    I never thought I’d say this about abstract doodles again, but the work, at least on http://www.michaelstevenson.com, looks pleasingly authentic. Maybe I fancy myself a psychic, but I think they were done in sincerity by someone with a strong tactile & visual sense.

    Of course we had Pollock in the 50’s, but are we judging art by linear development – the continual breaking of new borders over time? Or are we going to judge it for its sincerity before trying to put it into an art historical context? Yes, that will be a challenge, but are you prepared to listen to more pseudo academic rationalizations? I’m not.

    We don’t have an art market – the Michael Stevenson is not really for the South African market, methinks? If artists could manage to do more editions/prints/books/toys/anything, maybe we could make them more independent. The vast majority of South Africans who can appreciate the art dialog could never afford to buy a piece of work. That includes me.

    I feel that this problem causes a lot of bitterness & should be addressed.

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  9. Strawdog says:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that some of you don’t like this work because you can’t afford it, but I’m also not sure many of us have houses in which even an affordable print of these would look in context. 🙂 The economic & contextual reality is that these are a rich man’s toys. I dislike jewel studded Rolexes, maybe you dislike this art for a similar reason? I’m open to answers here.

    Apologies for the second post in a row, thanks for reading.

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  10. Ed_Groupie says:

    Strawdog and GOW, Blom’s whole shtick is that he isn’t sincere, and that everything he does is (painfully) about contextualizing his practice within a history of fine art. Self-consciousness wrapped in slacker cool.

    Young is well aware of this. He is a deceptively sharp character, our Ed: just because you saw him behaving badly at an opening where he tried to dry-hump your mom’s leg, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his art history.

    About the viscerality of abstraction: Blom’s work does not achieve this. Blom painting abstracts is like Busted playing punk: more like playing at punk. The real tragedy is the number of slavering, moneyed collectors apparently buying into Blom’s crock.

    You want to see decent contemporary abstraction? I’m afraid it doesn’t exist in South Africa, where our culture is hopelessly provincial and pathologically superficial. Rather look at German Albert Oehlen’s ‘post-non-representational’ work, or American Amy Sillman’s excellent images. Now THOSE are sincere battles with paint and surface.

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  11. GOW says:

    Why does Ed need groupies to provide the information that should have been in the review? This type of reviewing swings a blow at the entire industry, artists and arts writer alike. I’m all for provocative reviews, but please be sure to cover the basics.

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  12. Strawdog says:

    @ Ed_Groupie. (Thanks for the references) From a certain economic perspective, artists are commodities & investments for both the gallery & the buyers. The value in both cases depends heavily on perception & added value – so its somewhat understandable that things are meticulously contrived to maintain the value of artist & his work – which for all practical reasons are the same thing. A heavy burden indeed.

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  13. Ed_Groupie says:

    PS: the 4 people who Kiffed my two entries: word. Tequilas on me next time you’re in JHB.

    The 7 who Kakked me: tonight I’ll meet you behind in the alley at the back of The Ant in Melville, past the cistern and the 3 crack addicts who live there now. Boston Rules, muthafuckas! Bring a pillbox for your teeth.

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  14. Strawdog says:

    PS. I’m okay with Japanese punk rock; really infantile & imitative & overtly self-conscious & cool obsessed. I’d like to see then in a venue like Carnegie Hall – even if its just for the sheer awkwardness. Is Japanese punk rock highly accomplished technically? Is it easy to swallow? Not really. Is it fun watching a bunch of self-conscious pretenders get into character while some baffled rich people are footing the bill? Kinda.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Read my response to this ‘review’ here: http://corrigall.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-artists-shouldnt-write-reviews.html

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  16. Ed_Groupie says:

    Strawdog: I also love infantile punk. I don’t know much about Japanese punk, but yank and pommie punk is a serious guilty pleasure of mine.

    I understand the notion of growing up in public, and punk’s propensity to deflate decorum with infantility. Even if punk bands aren’t so young themselves, they operate within a particularly adolescent aesthetic. So the throwaway gesture (‘No future!’, glue mowhawks), the posturing (Pistols, New York Dolls) and the play-acting (Sex Fiend, Siouxsie, even Blink and Sum 41 as diaffected suburban boys) all make sense in this context.

    My contention is that these strategies don’t suit abstract painting’s language and dialogues. And even if they did, I’m not convinced that Zander Blom has successfully pitched his work to be believable in this sense, as an elaborate piss-take of abstraction’s mythologies.

    But others disagree: read Mary Corrigall’s blog post (link above) where she argues that this is precisely where the show succeeds…

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  17. Sarah says:

    Yep, the oil will eventually eat and destroy the raw linen/canvas.

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  18. avant kar god says:

    the photos are weak.
    sugimoto did this MUCH better
    http://www.brooklynrail.org/2006/12/artseen/hiroshi

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  19. richard h says:

    Mr Young in his own words, as captured in Twenty Times earlier this year: “It is not that i think that art should be ignored on purpose; i find that most art bores me. This has left some questioning my involvement in the arts. The fact is that i don’t like “art”. I don’t like the industry. I like the bickering, the backstabbing and constant references to: “but i did it first” and “she stole my idea”. Basically i like the bullshit. And it is not that I really dislike all the art. I just think that my art is better”

    And from My Young’s little red book (Asshole, 2003), from text by an adoring Andrew Lamprecht: “He (the asshole) is the one who simply does the opposite of what is expected for no reason than it focuses attention upon him”.

    Assholes, aka Ed Young, do not want to be taken seriously, nor should they ever be taken seriously. They just get left behind.

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  20. Toujours says:

    I’ll bet my bottom-Zim dollar that Ed Groupie is Ed.

    Even though I liked the Blom exhibition when I went and saw it, I’m deffinrately (creative spelling) going to think about it more critically.

    I LOLd!

    Thanks Ed

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