Block ProjectsFew commercial galleries have touched the careers of so many artists in such a short time. With an unusual mix of the anarchic alongside rigid professionalism, Blockprojects first made its mark in May 2007 and has revealed three incarnations since, each time growing in physical space and exhibiting more and more prestigious names.
Founded by Jeremy Kibel, Yasmine Nguyen and Steven Asquith (Asquith soon departed to pursue his art practice full time) Blockprojects started in a seriously humble space in Melbourne's Block Arcade. Little more than a renovated closet, the gallery held powerful shows of works by Alicia Frankovich, Giles Ryder and Mira Gojak and a stunning exhibition of Joseph Beuys multiples. Their openings became legendary, a place where young wannabees would rub shoulders - literally - with judges and lawyers - at crowded rooftop openings.
This initial incarnation of Block was brief. In 2007 Jan Minchin, Director of the prestigious Tolarno Galleries, had decided to move from her large space in Flinders Lane to an even larger space in Exhibition Street. A conversation between Minchin and Jeremy Kibel resulted in her offering her old Flinders Lane space as a new home for Blockprojects.
Unlike many essentially artist-run spaces, Blockprojects, in its new location managed to break even in the space of two exhibitions. Its first show, by New Zealand artist Richard Lewer, was acquired by a single collector. Its second, Melbourne stalwart artist Peter Walsh, with a stunning show, similarly sold out. Walsh's show, RIOTS, was an uprising of colour and an explosion of rebellious energy barely contained by the edge of the canvas.
'These paintings are about automatic drawing and filtering of the image, interpreting rather than replicating,' Walsh said of the works. 'Riots are interesting on a formal painterly level. The subject is a cacophony of humanity in action that reveals twisted energies and dynamic voices.'
In stark contrast, this was followed by an exhibition of essentially abstract works by Sydney-based Matthys Gerber which, with a searing palette, explored the very language of image-making and inspired The Sunday Age critic to comment that Gerber 'still channels an '80s punk aesthetic that brushes off the weighty traditions of European art, embraces the crudeness of abstract expressionism, but also fixates on painterly deliberateness.'
In an expression of the sense of camaraderie that Jeremy Kibel feels towards his fellow artists he embarked on a series of collaborations, the first of which to be shown at Blockprojects was with Giles Ryder. Titled Beautiful Burnouts the duo took aerosol to vinyl and in the process 'abstracted' the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth.
A major group show included the stunningly weird 2007 Utopian Visions & The Slump of Paradise which featured Janene Eaton, Richard Grigg, Matthew Johnson, Murray McKeich and Johannes Vogle which mixed the sublime abstract with the figurative surreal.
Over its still youthful history Blockprojects mixed the young and the old, the established and the undiscovered, without fear. A case in point would be the 2008 The Aliens Can Smell Our Blood (arguably the best exhibition title ever!) where such newcomers as Belle Bassin, Simon Pericich and Geoff Newton jostled up with the likes of John Aslandis, Peter Walsh and Giuseppe Romeo. Curated by Kibel, his intention was to reframe the gallery 'as a tomb encasing artefacts that aliens of the future will study to unravel the secrets that led to the downfall of our civilization.' Amongst the highlights of a brilliant show were Pericich's hand made weapons made from suburban detritus titled when they come we will be ready and Bassin's strange portal titled if you want to hide an alien, hide it in the trees.
A further group show later that year introduced such artists as Masato Takasaka, Adam Pyett and Bernhard Sachs to the space, further consolidating Blockprojects all-embracing policy of mix and match. It was also in 2008 that the well-established Sally Smart joined the stable with a showing of monumental wall works.
2009 began with epic works by Robert Hollingworth inspiring The Age critic Dan Rule to conclude that 'Hollingworth offers a spectacular, unfathomable vastness. We deal with it however we can.' This was followed in quick succession by a powerful show by Kibel titled Auto-Retrato - Paintings for P.W. This was at heart Kibel's homage to Picasso, Bacon, Guston and Sansom rendered with gusto and inspiring Ashley Crawford to write that: 'This is clearly a cathartic group of works. Despairing of the mediocrity around him Kibel has become a Resurrectionist, calling on reliable heroes.' (the reference to P.W. was for Peter Walsh who had died from cancer some months beforehand).
2009 featured an abundance of riches including Sally Smart's imposing 24-work Performativities, the powerfully anarchic paintings of Adam Pyett and Alan Jone's bizarre and apocalyptic surrealism. Similarly dark and brooding were a suite of works on paper by Rhys Lee inspired by a journey to Peru.
A key factor that had set Blockprojects apart from most commercial galleries was their penchant for 'outsiders' to curate exhibitions such the massive DRAWING FOLIO show curated by John Nixon and Justin Andrews which featured 36 artists including Constanze Zikos, Dylan Martorell, Nathan Gray, Bianca Hester, Rose Nolan and Marco Fusinato and The Resurrectionists curated by Sam Leach and Ashley Crawford featuring Lauren Cross, Irene Hanenbergh, Ruth Hutchinson, Tony Lloyd, Daniel Price, Jackson Slattery and Brie Trenerry.
But the show that seemed to inspire a frenzy was the extraordinary photographic/painterly collaboration between Robert Dobel and Simon Strong. Writing in The Age, Dan Rule waxed lyrical, describing the works as 'a paen to the mystique and poetry of human form.' Ashley Crawford, writing in a cover-story for Photofile magazine declared that: 'Their human forms, at least what once can see of them, are essentially perfect. Their globular, perhaps carcinogenic, outgrowths are contrasted with the ideal female breast, their dripping, corpuscular ectoplasm embracing the hour-glass figures of their models like an alien succubus love.'
In 2010 Blockprojects made its third move, to 79 Stephenson Street, Richmond. Before officially opening, Kibel donated the space for the inaugural NotFair - a somewhat anarchic alternative to the Melbourne Art Fair curated by Sam Leach, Tony Lloyd and Ashley Crawford. With an opening party that many declared as the best of the year, if not the decade, it put the new space firmly on the block.
Officially the new Blockprojects launched with a blockbuster: The Collaborative Work of Jeremy Kibel and Rhys Lee. a show that Dan Rule, writing in The Age, described as 'happily deranged.. Amid their ghostly blobs, splashes of colour and sharp, graphic incursions, we witness their wonderful clash, clamour and coalescence.'
Kibel and lee were followed by powerful shows by David Ralph, Robert Hollingworth, Robert Jacks, Matthys Gerber, Conor O'Brien, David Band, Adam Pyett, Tony Lloyd, Alan Jones and Matthew Johnson. At the time of writing the gallery is featuring the stunning Southern Oscillations by Philip Hunter.
Kibel and Nguyen say they want the space to be a serious business while retaining a hint of anarchy. 'A serious space with a liberal, open curatorial program - ageless, not just the young kids or a specific hard core style.'
'Block believes in the value of cultural currency and the difference that art can make within a community. Our philosophy is based around creating a think-tank where ideas can breed and flourish.'
'We want it to have a 'now' attitude - professional meets grunge. Essentially it will steer itself but it will maintain a business sensibility.'
Blockprojects has continued to grow with other incursions into the art world. They have launched Block Editions with work by Adam Cullen, Helga Groves, Rhys Lee, David Larwill and Jeremy Kibel. Blockprojects also runs an alternative program alongside its represented artists called Project Start, delivering experimental approaches and curated exhibitions featuring national and international contemporary artists. Through this program Blockprojects has established relationships with major artists and cultural institutions including Joseph Beuys, Rhys Lee, Sally Smart, Richard Lewer, Giles Ryder, Sam Leach and cultural critic Ashley Crawford.
In 2013 Blockprojects will launch a satellite space, located in a former industrial glass cleaning factory in Hawthorn East, in order to expand our exhibition schedule and to further explore curatorial possibilities and potential installation and sculptural work.
Time: Wed to Fri 11am-5 pm, Sat 11am-4 pm, Sun noon-4 pm,
❊ Address & Contact ❊
⊜ 79 Stephenson Street Richmond | Map
✆ 9429 0660
❊ Web Links ❊
→ Block Projects
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