In preparation for a work included in his solo exhibition, “Shadows of Words Spoken” at Galerie Christian Ehrentraut, sculptor Andreas Blank was in an uncomfortable situation in an Italian quarry. There were only five pieces left of the good quality alabaster stone that Blank needed to execute his project.
Text by R. Simkover and pictures by Galerie C. Ehrentraut
It is difficult to find a large stone that is a single, pure color, and since the quality of the rough surface is so different than when it is carved and polished, it takes an expert eye to identify the particular stones he seeks, ones without the “kitschy” veins. He had gotten into an argument with the quarrier about the weight of the stones. The quarrier insisted that they were each over 100 kilos, and they were not going to be leaving the quarry any time soon. If Blank could prove that his desired stone weighed less than 100 kilos (and was therefore something he could physically move on his own) then the fate of the stone was open to negotiation. So Blank found himself, nervous and sweating, surrounded by the quarrier’s nephews eagerly waiting the verdict. Blank bent down to attempt to pick up the stone, and while getting a proper grip, the backside of the stone was exposed, revealing “62 kilo” etched on the surface. The proud Italian let him have the stone free of charge.
Andreas Blank works exclusively from stone. Stories like these come with most of the materials he uses because the particular qualities of the stones (hardness, color, texture) that he needs to properly execute his ideas are rare and only found in specific parts of the world; he can’t exactly find unblemished green onyx on Ebay. The search involves a lot of travelling and a lot of phone calls. Not only do the stones have Blank’s stories surrounding them, but they also carry the history of the location. This is seen most obviously in a rare piece of black serpentine stone that has million year old snails embedded within. The full story behind each material is not something that is revealed while viewing the work; also, the titles of the works don’t provide any indication of where the stones came from or how they were collected. However, the specificity and special qualities of the materials themselves indicate that each stone carries a unique story; the physical material carries the metaphysical message.
The materials themselves are so magnificent, that one would almost just be content being in their presence as polished rocks. But of course there is so much more to them; Blank has expertly sculpted these stones using traditional stone carving and coloring techniques to produce something contemporary and refreshing. Many artists outsource their labor, but in this case, the artist’s immersion in every aspect of production is essential for its development. The stone is given new meaning as it takes the form of everyday objects from the office and domestic spheres and objects on display in the art gallery. The amount of care and detail that has been put into the development of each work results in incredibly convincing objects.
What I feel are the most intriguing objects are the more recent abstract sculptures. These objects that either hang on the wall or rest on pedestals (solid marble pedestals to be exact) take the form of a cloth that has been draped over paintings and sculptures. In fact there is nothing hidden, the objects are solid all the way through. Also, the text piece in the back corner of the installation nicely ties together the ideas behind the work; it is a piece from the quotation “seeing things that are too big to see.” The text is too big for the viewer to read, and Blank's work embodies things that are too big to see, such as simultaneous pieces of the world’s landscape, the history of the materials, and the history of art.
The show is on view through the 23rd of June
More information can be found here: http://www.christianehrentraut.com/