Three Forms: JB Blunk

Blunk Space is a new research center and exhibition venue dedicated to advancing the art and legacy of JB Blunk. The exhibition program presents historical and contemporary art, design and craft with links to Blunk’s work.

Our inaugural exhibition, Three Forms: JB Blunk, showcases his three primary media: painting, wood sculpture and ceramics. Rarely seen paintings on wood and rice paper from the 1970s and 1990s and a selection of stools made between 1962 and 1975 are presented alongside the estate’s new edition of Blunk Cups.

From 1950, Blunk spent several formative years in Japan as apprentice to master potters Rosanjin Kitaoji and Toyo Kaneshige who instructed him in the power of the elemental—earth, water and fire—that would become fundamental to the character of his own practice. While in Japan, he created a unique body of work in clay and also studied calligraphy, producing a series of prints and paintings. He brought these principles back to the US in 1954, settling in Inverness, California, in 1958.

Blunk began working with wood in the 1960s, first making stools and small tables and eventually earning commissions for large-scale pieces, public sculptures and environments. The stools in Three Forms, made from locally salvaged redwood, cypress and bay laurel, are fine examples of his sculptural furniture and demonstrate several of Blunk’s favorite motifs: arches, circles and phalluses. These archetypal forms are present in many of Blunk’s other works including larger sculptures, jewelry, ceramics and paintings.

Throughout his career, Blunk moved seamlessly between different disciplines and media, allowing the techniques of one medium to inform another. He used fall-offs from his large redwood sculptures as canvases for his paintings, finding compositions in the textures left by the chainsaw. The semi-abstract paintings on paper from the 1970s relate to his early calligraphy and woodwork—one of the paintings incorporates sawdust and the background of another piece is a rubbing from a large redwood slab. The works on wood from the 1990s are unique examples of the last artworks made by Blunk before he died in 2002.

The Blunk Cups are an ongoing series of slip cast ceramics based on Blunk’s original pieces. For this second edition, the estate has collaborated with artists Tyler Cross and Kyle Lypka to produce four cups in two glazes: matte cream and sage. The vessels are smooth to the touch and retain the silhouettes and details of Blunk’s originals.