Jonas Blanchet-Fricke: Crank It Out!
Editor's Note: Works by Jonas Blanchet-Fricke will continue on display during October at Gallery in the Woods' two locations, 143 Main St., Brattleboro, and Butterfield Rd. off Rte. 9 in Marlboro.
During the month of September, some recent inspirations by a 22-year-old were exhibited at Gallery in the Woods. The Art of Jonas Blanchet-Fricke seems to affect nearly all who see it. At once compelling, the easel-size works are often made with found materials or with the frame as part of the piece. They employ a list of traditional and modern art materials such as oil pastel, acrylic paint, spray paint, various markers and anything else at hand.
Blanchet-Fricke's first large show in Brattleboro was his filling of the walls at Mocha Joe's. He was quickly invited to exhibit at the Common Ground Gallery and has shown at The Ballroom Gallery. His work has now found a place on the wall at Gallery in the Woods, the Main Street art gallery where it seems much of the cream rises to the top in this dairy-farm art town.
Jonas, whose family attests to his fascination with art-making from the earliest age, grew up in Marlboro, studied art both at the River Gallery School and at The Putney School, and is about as local as a local could be. Not one of the nostalgic but happily classic impressionist pilgrims to the Green Mountains is he. His style would fall into the "here and now" category.
The astronaut or alien who stares out from the piece "Get With It and Know" (47" x 13") stands contentedly in a symbolically surrealistic landscape, gazing out into the world and the future while safe in his spacesuit. He is youthful, even childlike. Questioning, even demanding. But the Space Age explorer, still in his own age of innocence, is not demanding of us, but rather is us, and it is we who are now quietly demanding. That is, we are asking, comfortably in our spacesuits, feet on the planet, in our technological era, given everything we have, everything we can do and everything we know . . . we are asking, innocently, Why, dude? Why all this?
It is not social message, however, which initially attracts us to Jonas' art; rather, it is his drawing style. The young artist works uninhibitedly and is freely expressive, drawing in a style which recalls '60s underground comics along with certain social and political cartoonists who employ anatomical exaggerations or lurid, satirical humor. Shock and awe; innocence and curiosity.
Jonas's drawing style also refers quite clearly to certain "street artist" styles which emerged during the village art scene of the 1980s in New York. In 1981, Michael Roman began covering the walls of "Alphabet City" with his stencils. Jean Michel Basquiat was doing graffiti in Soho, Richard Hambleton was painting "shadow figures" in dark alleyways, and half a dozen or so "street artists" were staking their claims on walls and on lampposts, chiseling into the sidewalk and spraypainting anything on everything from Avenue A to the East River and all over downtown Manhattan. The trains underground were like a chain of muralled boxes squealing and rumbling along, their interiors peppered with the spraypainted and marker-drawn "TAGS" of all the homeboys from the Battery to the Bronx. It was a wild and dangerous time. And in the heady New York nightlife of unchecked sex and drugs during the pre-AIDS '80s, that was "wild" with a couple extra W's.
Blanchet-Fricke seems to have quoted another unabridged page from the '80s New York School in his use of materials. Take the piece "Lucid Conflict" (7-1/2" x 18"), for instance. Painted on part of a shattered skateboard, it is a youth emblem of angst, rebellion and freedom; or it is an archeological artifact left in the rubble by a generation of wheeled downhillers, the grate of their metal wheels on pavement still echoing off of Wantastiquet.
Now it's easy for us to say, for instance, "In the Renaissance they drew like Botticelli," or "The Surrealists drew like Salvador Dali," "Jackson Pollack was the voice of his generation," etc., etc. We cannot say how they drew now, in our own era. We don't have hindsight. We don't know what, in history, will be regarded as mundane or bogus, or what will be called significant, representative or visionary from this time, say 50 or 100 years down the road. Before he died tragically at the age of 27, the Haitian-American painter Jean Michel Basquiat was supposedly told by the neo-expressionist painter Julian Schnabel that "his audience had not been born yet." That was 15 years ago in a Cold War nuclear world which was just giving birth to the "material girl." Schnabel may have had a good point.
Jonas Blanchet-Fricke is of a different generation, however. One separated from the '80s by the cool, packaged "deconstructivist" art of the '90s. It is exciting to see such a dire, direct expression of inspired human art-making without the angst, decadence and downright anger of urban artistic expression 20 years ago.
While many artists struggle, deduct and reason to find their vision, or their own special style, Jonas Blanchet-Fricke seems like he has simply been "set in motion." There is only one thing art criticism should say to someone who has found their means of expression at such an early age. That would be: Crank it out!
Copyright 2003, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont