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th e Art of Martin Blank


th e Art of Martin Blank

Schantz Galleries c o n t e m p o r a r y

a r t

3 elm street, stockbridge, ma

Gesture has no precise edges... Th e forms are in th e act of changing. Gesture is mo vem ent in space. ~ Kimon Nicolaides


he artist and teacher Kimon Nicolaides* (1891–1938) captures in words the action and energy within the figurative sculpture by Martin Blank. Nicolaides states that the human form can be better understood through the gestural approach to drawing. What makes Martin Blank’s figurative sculpture so phenomenal is that he captures the gesture and movement of the figure in space with the medium of hot glass. In order to create these works, Martin has to possess not only the academic training in the figure but the expertise and mastery with the medium of glass. We witness in Martin’s work the passion, movement and life that can only accomplished when one has an intrinsic understanding of the figure and the ablilty to convey rhythm and movement with each changing line or form. We began the discussion about this catalog of allegorical figurative works last year. Martin has gone far beyond our expectations with the expressive use of the material and the imagination. We are very proud and excited to debut this new series of figurative work at Schantz Galleries. Jim Schantz and Kim Saul June, 2013

*Nicolaides influence on the teaching of drawing has been long-lasting and substantial, and his highly influential book, “The Natural Way to Draw” is still in use today. In brief, he advocated a three-pronged way of learning to draw, through (1) slow and meticulous contour drawing, (2) free and rapid gesture drawing, and (3) vigorous tonal drawings of weight or mass.

Descending Winds

Th irsting 53.5 x 19 x 13�

Messengers of Meaning


by Jeanne Koles

ife, like molten glass, is in a constant state of flow.

We ebb and rise from hardship to triumph to the everyday in between. Despite the demands of reality, human beings are defined by a quest to live inspired— seeking knowledge, needing peace, and hoping for a few transcendent moments. Meeting sculptor Martin Blank and beholding his glasswork is like putting that message in a bottle. A deft draftsman, Blank infuses his sculpture with both physical and metaphorical marks of his presence. He pours himself into each work with such fervor and intensity that we cannot help but feel the life that is given and honored in each piece. The bowed figure in the panel Thirsting is a vessel reaching artfully towards golden books. The rawness of his articulated musculature creates compelling tension when set against his graceful posture and the luminous clarity of the glass. He is thirsting for truth and knowledge, looking both inwardly and outwardly for answers to the questions of life. The books, though exquisitely crafted and gilded, are timeworn and ravaged by use and symbolize the elemental human need to tell stories and pass wisdom.

Art is also a mechanism for storytelling. For Blank, being an artist has been a personal journey of salvation that began at age 13, when he would take the bus north to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts for Ralph Rosenthal’s Saturday studio classes in sculpture. His first sculpture was a figure (a man doing a push-up) and the landscape of the human body has remained a steadfast muse. Throughout the years, his figures have been at times expressionistic (picture Alberto Giacometti’s Spoon Figures) and at times abstract, like his monumental Repose in Amber, comprised of five individual elements which visually merge together in a figural form. Recently, he has returned to the figure and imbibed it with the profound narratives of both his own personal history and the universal human experience.


e tells his story most pointedly in Dream Sequence, where the book is a body, an armature that protects and supports the head. Blank’s recognizable visage emerges from the book, an arterial connection made between the source of knowledge and the artist’s open-mind. The efflorescent curly hair becomes waves, heralding water as an essential physical element of life but also as a potent universal symbol for life, for purity and profundity, and for the notion that we are in constant motion. A small golden boat filled with wings rides atop those waves, symbolizing his individual life moving through the world with inspiration. A Rodin-like figure, full of pathos, drinks from the cup of knowledge. The expressive modeling of the glass and tangible surface coloration and etching allows us to see the hand of the artist, and although Dream Sequence is a self-portrait the ubiquity of the symbols still invites personal interpretation and meditation.

Dream Sequ ence 24 x 15 x 14�

Red Winged Blackbird 32 x 10 x 9.5�


he majority of Blanks figures are adorned, whether it is wings or books, objects and icons are messengers of meaning. In Redwinged Blackbird, dramatic scarlet and obsidian wings are interspersed with branches of golden thorns encircling the figure. The freedom signified by the wings may seem in contrast to the confining and sorrowful thorns, but in fact Blank is embracing anguish as a freeing experience in which we are blessed with the learning of lessons and the comfort that life continues. The halcyon Demeter is embraced by luminous sheaths of wheat, symbolic of nurturing, welcome, and fecundity. Demeter was not only a mother-goddess of the harvest; she is thought to have presided over the entire cycle of life and death. Working in glass mirrors the very facets of life. Glass is tactile, and we experience so much of life through our hands. Glass is fickle, but as in life we draw inspiration from happy accidents and uncertainty. Glass is additive, and we build a life in layers, never carving away. Glass is as much about the negative space that is created around the object as it is about the object itself, just as our lives are about our outer as much as our inner world. Glass is social, an exercise in teamwork with a rhythm and cadence that mimics our experiences with those around us.

Dancing with Dem eter 31 x 10 x 8�

Dem eter 30 x 11 x 9�


lank, in concert with his team, is a master of his medium whose aesthetic incorporates rough-hewn, organic handwork within the sexy tradition of glossy and sleek glass. Icy tree branches reticulate around the shadowy torso of Breathing in the Moon, a reflective and refractive composition that demonstrates Blank’s innate understanding of the physical properties of glass in relationship to light. Evoking the eerie brightness of a cold, moonlit night, the elegant blown branches are set in harmonic contrast to the body’s handcrafted mass. Ethereality and earthiness also combine in Winged Victory. What begins as a molten mass of liquid emerges as a female form as Blank manipulates the material with a variety of tools from taglia to tweezers to tongs. More glass, colors, and surface treatments are integrated into the sculpture, resulting in a form that celebrates both corporeality and idealism. Furrowed amber wings alight gracefully around her, a symbol of inspiration enveloping and lifting the human body.

Breath ing in th e Moon 33 x 10 x 9.5�


variety of influences come out in Blank’s work, but he riffs on his artistic ancestors instead of mimicking them; the Winged Victory recalls Jim Dine’s Spanish Venuses as much as she does the Ancient Greek Nike of Samothrace. Blank talks about modernist American sculptor Albert Paley as a strong influence for his ability to manipulate cold, hard, metal into seemingly impossible organic forms, his equal consideration of positive and negative space in sculpture, and the architectural nature of his installations. Many of the figures in this series of work by Blank are reminiscent of caryatids—figural female sculptures first used as columns on Ancient Greek buildings and reconsidered in the 19th century by bronze sculptor Auguste Rodin in his Gates of Hell. If a building is an icon of human grandness, then the caryatid is a reverential figure that carries the weight of human endeavor upon her head.

Su n and Moon 39 x 18.5 x 12�

Winged Victory 32.5 x 11.5 x 8.5�


nspiration is not limited to sculptors, just as Blank’s creative process does not exist in glass alone. Over the years, he has consecrated his copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass with his own musings and sketches, similarly inspired by the sensual beauty of nature and the exuberance for living that epitomized Whitman’s writing. Blank’s sketchbook is a pictorial and verbal stream of consciousness, in which hastily drawn ideas are often so beautifully rendered as to be reminiscent of Rembrandt. Works on canvas serve as inspiration as well, line drawings of figures atop saturated fields of organic color. With similar gestural fluidity, Blank’s glass sculptures capture emotions from anguish to exultation, embody metaphors about life and learning, and are a study in the potential of glass. Inspired by the great influences of nature, culture, and the people around him, Blank creates sculptures as imperfectly beautiful as life itself. Jeanne Koles is an independent museum professional who writes for the cultural sector.

Repose in Amber, Pu blic Commission

Martin Blank EDUCATION ~ 1984 Rhode Island School of Design, BFA

Museum Collections & Exhibitions Bergstrom Mahler Museum, Neenah, WI Block Museum, NW University, Evanston, IL Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY Honolulu Academy of Art, HI Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, IL Millennium Museum, Beijing, China Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada Museum of Contemporary Art, Lake Worth, FL Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA Museum of Northwest Art La Conner, WA New Britain Museum of America Art, CT Shanghai Museum of Fine Art, China Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL

SELECTED PUBLIC COMMISSIONS 120 La Salle, Chicago, IL, Repose in Amber Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, NV, Amber Duet Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Access to Learning Award Everett Properties, Bellevue, WA, Drinking from the Cup Melvin Poll Inc., Seattle, WA, Current Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA, Fluent Steps, Permanent exterior installation Orchestral Hall, Detroit, MI, Echo The Benaroya Company, Seattle, WA, Silver Blue Nikkos The Temple, Nashville, TN, Eternal Light

Professional 2008 2007 2006 1996 1996 1995 1995


Unprecedented 42 day residency, Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 5th Anniversary Visiting Artist, Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA Chihulys’ Gaffers, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA, Bellevue Art Guild, Bellevue WA Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA Waterford Crystal, Waterford, Ireland “Chihuly Over Venice” Nuutajarvi, Finland “Chihuly Over Venice”

VISITING ARTIST Bellingham Museum of Art, Bellingham, WA Contemporary Art Glass Museum, Ebeltoft, Denmark Hastings College, Hastings, NE Miami University, Miami, FL Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI Monash University, Melbourne, Australia Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner, WA NY Experimental Glass, New York, NY Palomar College, San Marcos, CA Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI Wheaton Village, Millville, NJ

HONORS & AWARDS Public Art & Architecture Tour, Chicago,IL, Repose in Amber Selected to propose public art commission for 7 World Trade Center Art In Embassies, American Embassy to Slovakia Artists Grant, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA

"I would call myself an intuitive artist. I work on th e way forms relate to each oth er to cut a line in space that flows, turns and carries th e eye arou nd th e piece." ~ Martin Blank

Transcendence, The Art of Martin Blank Š 2013 Schantz Galleries Stodkbridge, Mass. Design: Kim Saul Essay: Jeanne Koles Photos: Ashley Genevieve Russell Johnson Back Cover: Red Woman, Charcoal Drawing

Schantz Galleries c o n t e m p o r a r y

a r t

Martin Blank, Transcendence at Schantz Galleries  

We witness in Martin’s work the passion, movement and life that can only accomplished when one has an intrinsic understanding of the figure...

Martin Blank, Transcendence at Schantz Galleries  

We witness in Martin’s work the passion, movement and life that can only accomplished when one has an intrinsic understanding of the figure...