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Ten Years After Robert Blanchon's Death, Fales Library at NYU will Hold First Exhibition
#88A Untitled (Death Valley Self-Portrait), 1995. 2 cibachrome prints, wood frames, 35 ½ x 45 ½” each. Collection of the Robert Blanchon Papers, Fales Library, New York University. A self-portrait paired with a photo taken through a car windshield. Photo: Christopher Burke Studio.
NEW YORK, NY.- Coming ten years after Robert Blanchon’s untimely death of AIDS, the first New York exhibition of his works, writing and ephemera marks the transfer of major holding of his 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 Visual AIDS to collect and present the work of the late photo-based conceptual artist.

The exhibition offers an opportunity to finally 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 Felix-Gonzalez 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.

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