DeWitt Cheng — January 13, 2017
There’s a famous monologue in Citizen Kane in which Bernstein, Kane’s aged guardian, reminisces about a young woman glimpsed on a ferryboat in his youth: “A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all. But I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I hadn’t thought of that girl.” Visual memories can be haunting to artists, but they may transform them beyond recognition. The “falling” (i.e., offhand) observations of that famous “slipping glimpster,” Willem de Kooning (known to have had an eye for female beauty at least equal to Bernstein’s) led to strange painterly visions of women, indeed, back in the 1950s.
Eric Blum’s abstractions are executed on dyed silk stretched in layers over panel, laminated with beeswax. His recent gestural ink drawings are done on digital photographic printing paper. All are untitled and identified by number; they remain mostly unidentifiable as subject matter, although here and there a ghostly figure persists. Blum writes: “A scene viewed peripherally or as a background is something other than itself; an ‘autocorrect,’ that’s potentially more desirable, poetic, preposterous or menacing”.
Blum’s waxed silk works, with their diaphanous, atmospheric color planes, he recounted in an interview, draw on his recollection of time spent in an oxygen tent as an infant — some visual memory! He also says he hates to touch canvas, so the silk and wax that he employs clearly have sensory appeal for Bium. The digital paper, a textured semi-gloss that is used by many film processors, does as well, if more subtly. Formerly a photographer, Blum has a sharp eye and visual memory; disrupting and subverting that facility through “rotating, flipping, covering, uncovering, overlapping, excising and splicing,” he achieves in these monochromatic abstractions his own take on Asian ink brush painting, but in a state of becoming, rather than fixed. They are more process-oriented and metamorphic: enigmatic essences condensed from gestural improvisations and approximations.