Today’s Feature, May 7-8, 2007: Sebastian Blanck

January 18, 2008 at 6:16 pm (Today's Feature)

As a person who spends every waking hour scanning the globe for unique individuals, coming across Sebastian Blanck was cause for celebration; painter, singer, songwriter, performer and visionary. Blanck’s earliest memory of discovering art was sitting beside his mother during an art class she attended at The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). He would sit beside her, drawing for hours while she worked. Call it fate, intuition, or just natural instinct but Blanck’s early exposure to art as a child turned him into the artist we know today. He’s shown in art capitals like, New York, Sweden and Italy, to name a few. He’s been showcased in The New York Post, The New Yorker, The NY Art World, Paper Magazine and Street Miami, again, to name a few. His “Shower” exhibition, a series of energetic and playful paintings depicting his now wife, then girlfriend, along with himself, nude behind a polka-dot shower curtain, surpassed all of his expectations, landing him on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it came to talking about great artists. With nods to Lichtenstein, Hirst and Warhol, Blanck’s works conjure up a whole new set of emotions. Most notably one man’s fascination, devotion and love for his wife. A beautiful thought that only a seasoned artist could express so eloquently on canvas. His latest work; a style of using cut paper, broken down into graphic shapes then put back together to form real life images, is already gaining similar attention. But it doesn’t stop there. While Blanck was gearing up for the world’s art stage in college, simultaneously he was touring with the band Black Dice which he left a few years back to concentrate on painting. However, just because he stopped touring, didn’t mean he stopped playing. He continues to write and record music. His new EP, “I Blame Baltimore” will be out shortly but clips are available on his MySpace page. I’d say, “Need I say more” but that would mean I’d have to stop writing about Blanck. However, I’ll stop and let him explain it best. After all, as a person who spends night and day searching for amazing individuals, I think I’ll be pretty busy writing about Sebastian Blanck many more times in the future.

XXQs: Sebastian Blanck

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in art?

Sebastian Blanck (SB): I honestly don’t remember. When I was five or so my mom was a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where she majored in Sculpture/Fibers. She used to take me to some of her classes and I would just sit there and draw all day. That is my first memory of being in an art environment. It felt very natural. I don’t think I ever decided I wanted to be an artist. I never really considered anything else.

PEV: You attended a very popular art school, The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). For those not familiar with art schools in general, describe what life is like for an art student? Do all the students bond more, since they are all there for the (generally speaking) same cause?

SB: Art school was amazing, really fun. I enjoyed a lot of my classes and learned a ton. I had been waiting my whole life to be in a place like RISD and still feel fortunate that I was able to go there. I was a real f— up in high school. I got horrible grades, cut school a lot, and skipped classes, but when I got to RISD I was transformed as a student. I worked really hard, spending every day of the week in studio. I had an excellent work ethic, but also went out a lot… I was in Providence at a unique time. There was a big music scene that I was lucky enough to be a part of. I hadn’t really gone to see bands play in high school but attended shows a few times a week when at RISD. It was exciting because great bands played in Providence (Pavement, Beck, etc.) but even more fun were the local bands playing house parties (Forcefield, Olnyville Sound System, and Lightning Bolt). I remember the first time I saw ‘Lightning Bolt’ play I thought they had limitless energy but I that they sounded like shit. As I became accustomed to how they were making music, and how other bands in Providence were making music, it really opened up my expectations of what music and a live show could be. A lot of the harshness of the sound and volume became normal, and I was then able to hear melody and rhythm that I had previously been ignoring. It was like learning a language.

PEV: While you were at RISD, you formed the band Black Dice. How did that come about?

SB: My roommate, Bjorn Copeland and I just really wanted to start a band for a long time. In ’96 Bjorn had spent some time writing songs mostly for himself and eventually showed them to his brother Eric. They asked me to play bass and we tried a few different set ups. Eric started on drums and then switched to vocals. Then Brian Gibson from Lightning Bolt was playing drums for a while. We played a couple of shows with that line up in ’97. Finally, we replaced Brian with Hisham Bharoocha and we had our band. Bjorn was really motivated and booked a tour of the east coast during spring break of ’98. We played something like eight shows in nine days. It was really fun. It was one of those things that kind of started and got moving and I found myself just getting swept up into it. Everybody moved to Brooklyn, New York, and I was in the band for a year or so more before I left and was replaced by Aaron Warren.

PEV: After three US tours, you left Black Dice to focus on painting. What made you decide to go back to art when music seemed to be working so well?

SB: While I was in Black Dice I was still painting when we weren’t on the road. I really enjoy and believe in the idea of going to studio and working everyday so going out on a tour was difficult. I have really fond memories of those tours but I had a hard time accepting the fact that it would take ten hours to drive somewhere and then we would play for twenty minutes. The type of show we put on was wild and unpredictable and took tons of energy. It was taxing physically and mentally. It was amazing to be able to do that but when we started the band I honestly didn’t really expect it to continue after we graduated from school. Painting was my first choice and I just decide it was time to focus on it.

PEV: Music is obviously an intricate part of your life; do you listen to music while you are painting? What is in your CD player or on your iPod right now?

SB: I listen to music all the time in studio. If music isn’t on I am listening to NPR or watching a DVD on my computer. I can only do that when I am working at my desk. I don’t actually watch the movie. It’s more like listening to a movie. I used to draw in front of the television all the time as a kid and I think it just makes me feel at home and at ease. I love listening to director’s commentary while I am working at my desk. It is nice to hear people talk about there creative process…especially on the grand scale of a film. So much orchestration and direction involved in capturing those small moments to build up a story. Lately, I have been listening to Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, The Band, Lansing-Dreiden, Cheesburger, Benji Cossa, Animal Collective, and a bunch of other stuff. Always kind of lean towards older music in general though. Been finding some cool stuff on a sight called AnthologyRecordings.com which digitally reissues some amazing stuff. I have also been listening to my own songs trying to finalize mixes for an EP I am releasing called “I Blame Baltimore” in a couple of weeks.

PEV: Was there a certain point or event in your life that you decided art was going to be a career?

SB: I always wanted to be an artist. I used to want to be an illustrator. I guess that is really the only change, from illustrator to painter. I wanted to be a comic book illustrator at Marvel comics when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time copying my favorite characters from comic books. Not the same as copying old maters but still a great way to learn. That’s how I learned to use perspective in a drawing at a really young age.

PEV: What kind of environment or “zone” do you prefer to be in when you are working?

SB: Ideally, I would work at home. I like to be surrounded by my things. I also like to be able to distract my self by playing guitar or something every once in a while.

PEV: After traveling and showing all over the world, in your opinion, what is the best city for art appreciation?

SB: I love Paris. I love Degas, Monet, Bonnard, and Vuillard and that is the best place to see that stuff. I also think Rome is amazing. I lived in Rome for 6 months as a child and then spent the summer of 2001 as a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. I know both cities intimately and feel at home in either place. Certainly, the most overwhelmingly positive response to my work was in Sweden. In 2003, I had a solo show at Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm and there where tons of people at my opening. By the end, I was signing autographs and so was my wife Isca (my muse and fellow painter). We were both in shock. I am having another show at Wetterling Gallery in November of this year. I can only hope that it will go half as well as the last one. It will be a very different body of work and I hope the Swedes like it.

PEV: What is one thing people may be surprised to hear about Sebastian Blanck?

SB: I am really into playing basketball and video games… and I eat tons of candy.

PEV: You have shown in many galleries all over the globe, but what was it like the first time you saw your work in a gallery?

SB: The first solo show I had was in Miami and it was incredibly exciting to see my work up. The Gallery had a big glass window in front so you could see my paintings from the street. The opening was very well attended and the party overflowed into the street. After a while, the fire department drove by to survey the scene. In the end a few firemen decided to come in for a beer and hangout – it was pretty funny.

PEV: Is there one gallery or one kind of gallery (be it size, audience, location) you felt most comfortable in? Why?

SB: I like being in shows in New York because it means friends will come to the opening and have a better chance to see the show. But in a way, showing outside of the city is nicer because you don’t think about it as much. You don’t worry about reviews. It’s just kind of out there and you hope people like it.

PEV: Living in New York, what is your take on the New York art scene?

SB: When I first moved back to NY from RISD, I had just started dating Isca Greenfield-Sanders who is now my wife. She is a painter and a third generation NY artist. Her father is the photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Her mother, Karin Greenfield-Sanders, is an art lawyer, and her Uncle John Sanders and Grandfather Joop Sanders are both artists. I had never thought of art as a “family business” but was suddenly involved with someone who had first hand experience to a degree I had never known. I learned more about contemporary art sitting around the dinner table at Isca’s parents house than I did my entire time at RISD.

PEV: Being a younger artist, is there any kind of connection you have with other young artists? Or is it “dog eat dog,” so to say?

SB: I don’t think of it as “dog eat dog.” It is competitive, but there are also some very generous people who want to help. Ross Bleckner has been incredibly supportive.

PEV: What kind of advice can you give to someone who dreams of packing up and heading to the big apple for a music or art career?

SB: Come with a friend or better yet a crew of friends. Work hard and don’t get distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter. In the end, it is the work that matters and lasts, so put everything you can into it.

PEV: Explain your creation process. Do you sketch things our first? Go right to the canvas?

SB: My new work is made from cut paper. First I take an image and break it down into graphic shapes. Next I cut out each of those shapes and paint them. Then I glue them to board and kind of build the image back up like a puzzle. Some sections of an image I leave flat and graphic while others I paint as a complete object.

PEV: If you could sit down for dinner with one artist, past or present, who would it be? Why?

SB: My wife Isca. Cause I think she is completely amazing.

PEV: Your exhibition entitled “Shower” which features two nude figures, each coming in and out of the shower, has been praised everywhere. Now, we know that it is you in the “buff” but who is the woman? How did this project and use of the polka dots come about?

SB: That is also my wife. It came about because I was interested in making images that were simultaneously figurative and abstract. I had also been looking at a lot of Op art like Bridget Riley. One morning as Isca was getting into the shower behind a dotted curtain I saw exactly what I had been hoping to make right in front of me. In painting the shower paintings the imagery changed a bit but in essence it was all an attempt to recreate that visual experience.

PEV: Is there someone you feel, right now, should be considered “the next big thing” in the art world?

SB: I am not in the “next big thing” business, but I think very highly of these artists: Bjorn Copeland, Rob Nadeau, Joe Bradley, Joshua Abelow, Leah Tinari, Megan Pflug, Pali Kashi, Kevin Hooyman, Anna Schacte, Lars Fisk, Shana Lutker, Lansing-Dreiden, Bowie Zunino, Tim Davis, Lisa Sanditz, the Neistat Brothers, and Jason Frank Rothenberg.

PEV: When you are not painting what can we find you doing?

SB: I spend most of my time with my wife just hanging out at home. I also spend as much time as possible recording music and seeing friends. I love watching television and I also love to play sports and compete.

PEV: So, what is next for Sebastian Blanck?

SB: More painting, more music and most importantly–a baby. My wife Isca and I are expecting our first child in August. To find out more on Sebastian Blanck, check out: SebastianBlanck.com and be his friend at http://www.myspace.com/sebastianblanck

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