By Marty Fugate Posted May 4, 2018 at 1:21 PM
A solo exhibition of his work is on display through May 19 at Alfstad& Contemporary
Jorge Blanco is a prolific, multi-talented, multidisciplinary artist. The Venezuelan native has made a name for himself as a sculptor, graphic designer, illustrator and cartoonist. Even if you don’t know his name, you probably recognize his art. Blanco’s colorful, joyful public sculpture is woven into our city’s fabric — from the eternally sprinting “Runners” on U.S. 41 near the Municipal Auditorium to the topsy-turvy “Cartwheel” at Gulf Gate Elementary School. “BRAVO!” is his latest public sculpture — an 18-foot-tall, abstract celebration of Sarasota’s love affair with art. That piece is set for dedication this summer at the roundabout on Ringling Blvd. and Orange Ave.
Locally, Blanco’s been featured in several group shows. Alfstad& Contemporary’s “Jorge Blanco: SOLO BLANCO” is the first area exhibition entirely devoted to his work. But “work” seems like the wrong word to describe it. His pieces are far too playful.
In this exhibit, Blanco’s witty creations range from the larger-than-life to the slightly exaggerated. His breezy “Zephyrus” soars like an angel on a leisurely flight path through the heavens. It nearly touches the gallery’s high ceiling. But his “Tomato II” and “Mango” are only slightly larger than the actual fruits. Big or small, Blanco’s art has a beautiful simplicity. That simplicity turns out to be complicated in practice.
The artist was happy to share a few insights on how he achieves it.
Medium and Method
Blanco always starts from technical drawings before creating his sculpture. “I do my drawings by hand — old-school on drafting paper — then I have them transferred to computer.” From there, Blanco’s plans become precise metal segments. The artist bolts these elements together. “No welds, I don’t do welds,” he says. “It’s too sloppy.” Powder-coated aluminum has become Blanco’s favorite sculptural material. Each segment is spray-painted and baked to a highly reflective, glossy sheen. After it all comes together, the sculptural results rival the candy-colored perfection of California’s custom car culture. Stand close, and you can even see your own reflection. “That’s exactly what I want,” he smiles.
Man and Mood
“I went through a period where my art was very sad,” he says. “My material was dark; my subject matter was dark; everything was dark!” Blanco eventually decided to lighten up. “I have respect for artists who explore unhappy things,” he says. “But that was not for me. I decided to bring more light into the world. If my art can make you smile, I know I have done my job.”
Blanco’s 3-D art shares space with large-scale reproductions of “The Castaway,” his original comic strip. It was a runaway success in Venezuela, and recently enjoyed a four-year run at The Observer in our area. The star of his wordless feature is a moon-faced Castaway, eternally exiled on a desert island. (One witty strip shows him selecting from a vending machine offering bottles with different notes.) The moon-faced figure of Blanco’s cartoons bears a striking resemblance to the abstract faces of his sculpture. Is there a connection? Or is the Castaway really Jorge Blanco? The artist says no. “The Castaway is a universal figure,” he says. “He’s me; he’s you; he’s everybody. When you look at him, I want you to put yourself in his place. His problems are our problems! We are all, really, castaways, each in our own way.”
‘Jorge Blanco: SOLO BLANCO’
Runs through May 19 at Alfstad& Contemporary, 1419 5th St., Sarasota. For more information: 941-366-6400; alfstadand.com