Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jeremy Blake 1971 - 2007

A story that has been getting some attention, and is worth mentioning, is the disappearance of artist Jeremy Blake. Blake received his undergraduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before getting his MFA from Cal-Arts. A few years ago Blake gave a visiting artist lecture here. He is/was an LA based artist working primarily in media art, making installations as well as album covers and visuals for Beck and the movie Punch Drunk Love.

Jeremy Blake • Sodium Family Values • 2005 • digital c-print • 38 1/4 x 90 inches framed • edition of 6 • Kinz, Tillou + Feigen

In his lecture he remembered getting harsh critiques from Dan Guston at SAIC. He recalled being pulled aside at the end of his senior year by Guston and being confronted about his choice of Cal-Arts. Guston said something to the effect that he was going to play around with video there and not be challenged to paint. Guston then asked, “when are you going to make REAL art?!” Blake recalled the event with humor and fondness, not with a sense of bitterness at all. But the encounter stayed fresh in his memory, so with that in mind he created a series of paintings based on photos of characters from popular culture of his youth, ie Dark Shadows.

There is a lot of speculation about what has transpired in Blake’s life. But what is known is that his long time girlfriend, Theresa Duncan, committed suicide on July 10th with an overdose of pills. Duncan and Blake had relocated to New York while she worked on her first movie, produced by Fox Searchlight pictures. Duncan had a popular perfume blog. And her death has spawned a lot of posting on “perfumer” message boards. Which I must say is a little odd to read, elegies for Duncan’s poetic descriptions of aromas and then “OMG this is so horrible,” written in internet slang. Not to diminish people’s emotions or lives, but it is a strange condition of the modern age for people to be lamenting a blogger they never met.

It is voyeuristic and shameful, at least on my part, and for others seeking news that have no personal connection. One commenter asks if it was possibly an accidental overdose, the administrator replies, it was definitely not, “she left a long note.” And later we hear that things were “spiraling out of control.” In the internet-blog-messageboard world, we are somewhere between high school gossip, reality TV and celebrity obsessed. So in reading people’s comments, we think “well, what did the note say!?” Forgetting these are actual humans involved.

Jeremy Blake • Sight Gag • digital c-print • 33 x 49 inches framed • edition of 12 • Kinz, Tillou + Feigen

At any rate, a week after Duncan ended her life, Blake turned up missing. An anonymous caller reported seeing him walking out into the sea from the beach at Rockaway Park in New York on the night of the 17th. Various reports have stated that authorities found some combination of Blake’s clothes, wallet and passport on the beach or under the boardwalk. The most recent, an LA Times piece includes mention of a suicide note. He is officially considered “missing” by the police.

The sad, most likely scenario is that he was overcome by the loss of someone many described as his soul mate and decided to take his own life by walking out into the ocean and swimming to his death. Reports of late Wednesday night state a body has washed up on the New Jersey shore that is believed to be his.

Jeremy Blake • Blues Before Sunrise • 2003 • oil on canvas • 12 x 21 inches overall • Kinz, Tillou + Feigen

The story gets stranger, though. Apparently the couple held the belief they were being stalked and harrassed in connection to Jeremy Blake dating photographer Anna Gaskill in college, his piece about the Winchester Riffle House, and his work with Beck. Also tied to this is Theresa Duncan’s FBI record and history of protesting the Iran Contra and supporting labor movements in Detroit. There is also mention of Gaskill’s adoptive father and ultra right wing conservative conspiracies, and the Church of Scientology. On Duncan’s blog back in May, she posted a very long, addled and verbose tome on this subject. No explanation is given or alluded to how it all started. At his talk, in 2004, Blake was very upbeat about the project with Beck and recalled the story of Radiohead’s famous producer Nigel Godrich encouraging him to take the plunge and go for it. This was around the time friends noticed a change in the couple’s behavior that grew increasingly neurotic.


m. said...

I was horrified when I read about this a few weeks ago in the Times. I don't know much about Blake's life, but the whole thing seems shockingly abrupt.

caetano said...

i like.

cappuccino said...

thanks for including some images of his amazing work in your post.. in all I have read about the subject in the past few weeks his lasting contribution seems to have been lost in the intrigue of his death. crazy story nonetheless.