by Michael Smith (June, 2008)
Zander Blom is a Johannesburg-based artist who utilizes painting, drawing, assemblage sculpture, and, crucially, photography, to interrogate received ideas about creative endeavour and Modernism in Africa. Typically, Blom creates modular units of mark, shape and form in paint, printmaking and assemblage, which are configured, photographed, reconfigured and photographed again. These photographs are always staged in Blom's shabbily chic Brixton home, usually in the corners between the pressed ceiling and the white walls.
Blom's exhibited work seems to span the full gambit of his process: finished product photographs are exhibited alongside the printed or made shapes, as well as with piles of detritus that presumably echo those around his studio/home.
The visual elements of Blom's painted, drawn and printed images are undeniably slick: robust black dominates, and shapes are razor-sharp as if machined. Targets, blocks and rectangles are replicated, becoming base units in visual constructions. The constructed-ness of the whole is signalled by the iconic nature of its parts. Even the ragged, irregular shards of black that emanate from the centres of certain groups have a crispness that marks them as unmistakably Blom images. Yet this is no mere aesthetic tinkering: as What If The World gallerist Justin Rhodes states in an article by Sean O'Toole in the December 2007 Business Day Art Supplement, Blom's work is 'very identifiable and strong, well thought-out and conceived, not just edgy graphic imagery.'
'I'm interested in exploring some aspects of the avant garde art movements of the 20th Century that I find compelling. Examples of this include the super optimism, idealism and seriousness of Mondrian and De Stijl, the striving towards revolution and progress that characterises movements like Constructivism, and the glorification of modernisation which Futurism is know for.
My exploration has to do with trying to understand Modernism from the perspective of a young person living in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the dawn of the 21st Century - a position which is very much dislocated in time, space, and ideology from what it attempts to investigate. The works which I made in the last four years either directly mimic selected visual qualities of modernist related subjects, or comment in some way on the various ideologies of art movements of the 20th Century.'
Interview with Michael Smith, published in ArtThrob, September 2007
Emily Verla Bovino, writing on the Artforum website, www.artforum.com, said of Blom's work:
'Withdrawing to an old town house in Brixton, Johannesburg-based artist Zander Blom makes and photographs installations reminiscent of Merzbau, Kurt Schwitters's destroyed �gcathedral of erotic misery.�h Complex collages of jutting foamcore triangles and cartoon clouds, as in Untitled or the Boulevard, Bedroom 1, Corner 2, 5:11 PM, Friday, 1 June 2007, climb the walls and extend across the tin ceilings of Blom's home.'
Mary Corrigall, writing in SA's Sunday Independent in November 2007, said:
'Blom... recounts how, as a young artist living in South Africa, his grasp on Modernism has been mediated, thus compounding his estrangement from this once avant-garde movement that turned the visual arts on its head at the turn of the last century.
His references to modernism are self-evident; using the walls and ceiling of his Brixton abode, Blom made bold experiments with form that mimic the art of the likes of Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian. These "experiments" are then photographed and, while they also appear in a book which he considers the final product, it is the photographs of his structural experiments that make up the exhibition. Blom explains that the artworks at this exhibition, entitled The Drain of Progress, are part of a process of trying to conjure up the experience of being the author of an avant-garde movement, thereby bridging the gap between the past and the here and now.'
Sean O'Toole said, in the December 2007 quarterly art supplement to the Business Day:
'Early in 2005, while mucking about with his ink and paper creations for a small group exhibition, Blom realised most of his youthful ambitions were "lame and redundant". He also recognised his dislike of "ambitious art" - being art that is "monumental or profound".
So he decided to spend more time at home.
"It was about living and working, about appreciating literature, music and art as much as it was about producing my own pointless scribbles," writes Blom in his catalogue, titled The Drain of Progress. "I was quite happy to lock myself up in my house and make random marks and words on paper."'
Blom has work on the major curated Winter show at Cape Town's Michael Stevenson, entitled 'Disguise'. The show, curated by Joost Bosland, deals with visual art explorations of strategies of revealing and concealing. Blom's photographic works on the show are from the same body of work as his 2007 blockbuster show at Rooke Gallery, 'The Drain of Progress'.
Work by Blom featured prominently on the Rooke Gallery stand at the Johannesburg Art Fair in March 2008, held at the Sandton Convention Centre. Work by Blom also featured on the '.ZA.Young Art From South Africa' exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Siena, Italy, during February 2008.
In September 2007, Blom's show 'The Drain of Progress' opened at Rooke Gallery in Newtown, Johannesburg. It proved to be a career-defining moment for this young artist, with Blom's work being featured on the next cover of the quarterly Art South Africa, and being named one of the magazine's 'Bright Young Things for 2007.
The show was accompanied by the launch of a book, The Drain of Progress: a Catalogue Raisonné. The show and book launch travelled to Cape Town's What If The World / Gallery in early 2008.
'The Drain of Progress' exhibition will also travel to Ferreira Projects in London during July 2008. There, it will show alongside Cape Town artist Julia Rosa Clark's 'Hypocrite's Lament'; both these bodies of work appear there in association with What If The World / Gallery.
2008 The Drain of Progress: Exhibition and launch of The Drain of Progress: a Catalogue Raisonné
, WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY, Cape Town, May
2007 'The Drain of Progress' and launch of The Drain of Progress: a Catalogue Raisonné, Rooke Gallery, Johannesburg, September
2006 'Sounds and Pictures', Premises Gallery, Johannesburg, July
Selected group exhibitions
2008 'Disguise', Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, May 2008
'.ZA Young Art from South Africa', Palazzo Delle Papesse, Centre for Contemporary Art, Sienna, Italy, February
2007 Paper Placemats (ATL), ACP Public Art Program, curated by Jason Fulford. Presented with J & L Books, Atlanta, USA, October
SAME PLACES, group exhibition curated by Maja Marx, Aardklop, Potchefstroom, South Africa, September
2006 TEN, Exhibition and publication , Society of Photographers, The Premises Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
'All creatures great and small', group show, WHATIFTHEWORLD / GALLERY, Cape Town, South Africa, October
2005 'BMW Showroom', group show, Metro Lab, Johannesburg, South Africa, July
DWG, group show, Outlet Gallery, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa, March
'Group Therapy', group exhibition and publication, Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, March
2004 '...etc.' (part 2), group show, ArtCoZa Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa October
'...etc.' (part 1), group show, Artspace, Johannesburg, South Africa, February