This Is Why Events Unnerve Me.
The title of this post comes from the beginning of Ceremony, the first song ever released by the band, New Order. The band rose from the stunned ashes of Joy Division after their singer, Ian Curtis, killed himself on the eve of what was to be their first American tour. To this day, nobody really understands the act. Curtis had written the song with his band before he died. His band mates, like the rest of us, were left with the music.
I only met Jeremy Blake a couple of times. I never knew him beyond introductions. I do know this though. His art opened as many doors in my heart as there are in the Winchester Mystery House, the storied building that Blake based his Winchester trilogy upon in 2005. I went to a Creative Time benefit where the artist was premiering his recombinant mixdown of the trilogy, Winchester Redux. I was immediately entranced by the work and Blake was eloquent and charming as he spoke about it with Creative Time director, Anne Pasternak.
It's the first time that video broke through the canvas to find me. I would often hear artists and critics talk about video art as a "moving painting," I would look at the art and think, "Nah. It's a video. It might be beautiful. It might be brilliant. But it's a video." Not so with Jeremy Blake's work. It made the leap.
I was so excited about the work that I paid a visit to Feigen Contemporary that weekend, Blake's gallery on 20th Street. I had met one of the gallery's directors, Lance Kinz, at the benefit. I reintroduced myself to him and we started talking about Blake's videos. Obviously thrilled to find a wild-eyed enthusiasm that matched his, Lance invited me downstairs to show me other videos that the gallery had in their possession. He left me alone in the room and I fell into the same spell that I had experienced a couple days before. After I worked through the videos, there were c-prints and drawings. I could not possibly get enough of this. I'll never be able to thank Lance enough for his generosity and guidance that afternoon.
I also I realized that I had, in fact, seen one of Blake's pieces before, in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. Inspired by the writings of the 60's fashion designer, Reading Ossie Clark, was an intensely beautiful work that carried a sense of sadness. The work took the viewer back to that moment when unbridled excitement and a creeping dread were crossing paths in the '60's. It was the only video work in that Biennial that had demanded my presence for its entirety. I remember. I watched it twice.
I never missed another chance to see Blake's work when it was in town. As part of a group show at Apex Art. His solo show, Sodium Fox, at Feigen in 2005. And finally, just a couple nights before he walked into the ocean, I saw Cowboy Waltz in Times Square as part of Creative Time's 59th Minute retrospective. Nobody knew how hard that sun was setting.
So here I am--here we are--left with the work. The work doesn't have to discover a love of 12 years dead at home. It doesn't have to take one last breath. It doesn't swallow the sea. The work stays here, with me--as Bernard Sumner sings at the end of Ceremony,--"Letting me know, forever." All I can do now is be grateful for Jeremy Blake, his art, and all the doors he left open.