CONTINUUMJune 8 - December 29,2024

The Fondation d’entreprise Martell is delighted to present the first retrospective exhibition in Europe of the American sculptor JB Blunk (James Blain Blunk, 1926-2002), organized in collaboration with his daughter Mariah Nielson, director of the JB Blunk Estate, with contributions from Anne Dressen, curator at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

The exhibition CONTINUUM offers an immersion into the work of JB Blunk, unknown to the general public but iconic for many artists, for whom he remains a source of inspiration. The exhibition presents a vast collection of pieces created by Blunk, allowing viewers to grasp his unique and unconventional approach: whether creating works of art or everyday objects, his work – in constant dialogue with his environment – is a powerful plea, placing creation at the heart of everyday life.

Blunk drew his inspiration from his relationship with the nature surrounding him daily: located near the small town of Inverness, California, on an exceptional site in the heart of the forest and close to the Pacific coast. Throughout his life, the artist was dedicated to creating in deep connection with his environment, utilizing the natural resources around him (sequoia stumps and driftwood, earth, stones, etc.) to craft pieces, reconnecting with ancestral forms of expression and playing with scales ranging from modest to monumental.

A selection of over 150 pieces including sculptural works, ceramics, furniture, models, paintings, sketches, and original photographs drawn from both the JB Blunk Estate and private collections illustrates the breadth of his artistic practice, at the intersection of art and craftsmanship. The exhibition includes Blunk’s earliest known ceramic vessel made in Los Angeles while a student at UCLA in the 1940s, as well as a collection of maquettes which have rarely been seen by the public until now. Additionally, letters, works on paper and other ephemera drawn from family archives shed light on the artist’s ways of working, his personal and professional connections, as well as his sources of inspiration, whether from early civilizations, different approaches to spirituality, or his pioneering vision in ecology.

A new film commissioned for the occasion captures the multiple facets of the house and studio that the sculptor built entirely by hand, from the architectural structure to the furniture, including tableware, switches, and even a fully sculpted sink. Mainly made from salvaged materials, the Blunk House, emblematic of his practice and mindset, is considered his major work of total art. The short films aim to convey the unique environment in which Blunk lived with his family near the wild coast of Point Reyes in Northern California. A second new film presents a selection of four monumental works installed in the San Francisco region: carved from blocks of giant sequoia, these public seating sculptures in urban spaces testify to another aspect of Blunk’s work.

The exhibition spans 900m2 and approaches Blunk’s work through 6 thematic sections – Japan, Landscape, Home, Archetypes, Process and Public Projects – presenting his holistic approach to design, art, and architecture. Just as Blunk did not delineate between his life and work, the exhibition sections are intertwined and porous, giving the visitor the experience of his different methods, materials, and inspirations as he experienced them: in constant, insistent conversation with each other. The scenography was specially designed by designer Martino Gamper in collaboration with graphic designer Kajsa Ståhl (Åbäke).

 “By unveiling the little-known work of an artist celebrating the power of nature, life, and creation at the intersection of disciplines, this retrospective aligns with the ambition of the Martell Foundation to encourage the emergence of innovative artistic approaches focused on the ecological transformation of territories and our ways of life.”
Anne-Claire Duprat, Director of the Fondation d’entreprise Martell

Top – Down : Courtesy JB Blunk Estate
Photos 1 et 2 : Blunk House in Inverness, Californie © Leslie Williamson
Photo 3 : JB Blunk, Untitled, c.1970 © Daniel Dent.
Photo 4 : JB Blunk carving Continuum, c. 1979. © Mike Conway
Photo 5 : JB Blunk, Untitled, c.1990 © Daniel Dent.