BY PHILIP LEDERER / SRQ DAILY / FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION / FRIDAY MAY 4, 2018
As a sculptor, Jorge Blanco has been creating for 40 years. Working in powder-coated aluminum, large-scale and small, with his trademark whimsy and vibrant palette, he’s shown across the world, and collections of his work can be found on four continents. Galleries have mounted solo shows dedicated to Blanco from Venezuela to Italy, and even just down the road in Miami. “But never here,” he says, of his adopted hometown of Sarasota, where he’s lived for near 20 years. There have been plenty of group shows, and Blanco’s sculptures can be found around town, but never showing on their own. Now, with the opening of Solo Blanco at Alfstad& Contemporary last week, Blanco has the gallery to himself and couldn’t be happier.
Showing more than 15 pieces within Alfstad&, ranging from the handheld Mini Fire Fish to the 14-foot-tall Zephyrus nearly scraping the ceiling, Solo Blanco provides viewers with a broad initiation to Blanco’s world. Abstract or figurative, character-focused or object-oriented, functional or purely decorative, a jaunt around the gallery floor affords contact with several different aspects of the artist’s work. From sliced carrots to deconstructed fish to a bright yellow bench (from Blanco’s backyard), each hints at more in the wings, unseen for now but perhaps waiting in Blanco’s workshop. And for those curious as to process, a short video looping in the back room of the gallery offers a bit of insight.
“This is wonderful,” says Blanco, surveying the show. “And, for me, this is a great gallery.” From the architecture to the modern gallery aesthetic and lighting—not to mention sheer space available—it all seems to click. And for the artist whose Runners have graced Tamiami Trail for years now, their melon heads peeking out from the median underbrush as cars whoosh by, Solo Blanco represents a little belated recognition. “Sometimes I feel people know nothing about my work,” says Blanco. “So this is a new opportunity to me.”
In addition to Blanco’s sculptural work, the show features 12 original watercolors from the artist’s days as a celebrated cartoonist and creator of El Naufraga, or The Castaway. Premiering in the Venezuelean newspaper, El Diario de Caracas, in 1980, The Castaway became a national sensation, and when Blanco moved to Sarasota near 20 years later, he brought the character with him, publishing for a time in City Tempo, a precursor to SRQ magazine. On May 15, the gallery will release a limited edition series of prints for each image, with Blanco available to sign any purchased.
Solo Blanco runs at Alfstad& Contemporary through May 19. And with a record-breaking opening last week that saw more than 500 people flocking to the gallery for the artist’s first solo show, the question looms large—what took so long? “I’m curious too,” jokes Blanco.
Pictured: "Mina" by Jorge Blanco. Photo courtesy of Alfstad& Contemporary