Monday, May 11, 2009

Jack Balas

On "The Art of John Bittinger Klomp: Wes Hempel">February 27, 2009 I completed a journal entry about Wes Hempel, and at the time, I promised a future entry about Jack Balas, Hempel’s partner in crime. Dare I say crime? Do I risk being misunderstood?

“Of course you do, John!” My alter ego answers.

Never the less, there it is, the word, “Crime,” and I use the word to refer to Balas' probing beneath the surface of representation, to look at primary philosophical concerns. In his own words, “…reaching beyond the fleeting surface idealization associated with youth and hopefully going far in terms of metaphor, poking around such timeless ideas as: truth, beauty, faith, time, the infinite, what we learn and what we know. It may seem questionable indeed these days to even concern myself with such unanswerables, but in an era when political and spiritual leaders assert that they in fact have the answers for us all, I think that art has the capacity to imagine otherwise, to offer some transcendent spark to bridge the gap between intent and form, between idea and the evidence of our lives.” Balas’ thought resonates with mine, that all art forms can be (indeed should be) so much more than a record and/or interpretation of human history. Great art can be so many things, but one component must be to transcend (intended or not) the time and place in which it was created, and one way to do that is for the artist to create dense imagery, an attempt to describe his/her internalized universe and it’s relation to the actual and / or abstract universe of others and/or the universe as described by constructions within the general culture.

So much of Balas’ work revolves around the idealized male figure/form, a subset of my oeuvre because only the digital photomontages incorporate the male figure. Balas also uses text to obfuscate the surface rendering of the idealized male youth, while I hardly ever use text in my imagery. However, I find an affinity for his imagery that goes beyond my own, and I wish that I were as prolific in my production. I also wish that I had photographed more men for my work in the past. In fact, one of the things that most attracts me to Balas’ work is his use of the camera and models because so much of my own work involves the camera. An entire section of his Website is titled “Photo,” and he often works back and forth between painting and the photograph as well. Additionally, Balas plays with linguistics through color selection, thus punning, and playing with the arbitrary meaning of language (See illustration above).

To summarize, Balas works between text and the male image (painted, photographed, and drawn). The resulting artworks while about the idealized and eroticized youthful male figure are intended to muddle our usual cultural preoccupation with such matters because Balas wishes to create a subversive subtext about deeper philosophical concerns.

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