Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to announce Free Range, Julie Blackmon's third solo exhibition with the gallery. Blackmon's recent body of work, which includes new images that will debut at the exhibition, juxtaposes an enduring sense of nostalgia with keenly contemporary details to twist the artist's signature sly wit into strange, wry, and whimsical stories of family life. Coinciding with the release of her new book, Homegrown, the exhibition opening on September 4th will be accompanied by a book signing.
While Blackmon's work has always eschewed the overly sentimental or saccharine, several of her recent pictures delve further into darkness. Set in the same cavernous house against dark-red walls, Hair and Dress Rehearsal invoke shades of the sublime as children dance in garish black costumes or hide, only limbs or eyes visible, behind bannisters and doors. Works like Chaise and The Hamster Handbook take the opposite approach, forming dreamscapes of childhood summers through filtered sunlight and suburban backyards. As always, however, quotidian quips peek through. Barbie parts lie scattered on Hair's hardwood floor, and the titular Handbook lies amongst toilet paper rolls and re-purposed doll furniture in a hamster's homemade fort.
Other images are more direct pokes at our consumer culture. Thin Mints depicts a Girl Scout troop in an Abbey Road-like line eagerly delivering boxes of the eponymous cookies, a wailing younger sister in the back red wagon having apparently overindulged. One of Blackmon's very newest works, New Chair, is a glib ode to material improvement (direct from FedEx). Yet like all works in Free Range, there is a particular poignancy to the image as well. One young child stands protectively—and protected—behind the dingy old dinosaur, an overstuffed armchair with a "$20" sign scratched on scrap paper. Hair may grow, logos updated, furniture replaced: things change, yet childhood remains touchingly, hilariously, much the same.
Julie Blackmon lives and works in Springfield, Missouri. The artist's work is included in numerous museums and public collections including that of the George Eastman House; Nelson Atkins Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; the Portland Art Museum; and the Musée Français de la Photographie in Bièvres, France. She was named American Photo's "Emerging Photographer of 2008" and one of PDN's "30 New and Emerging Photographers" in 2007, and has been the recipient of various awards including first prize from The Santa Fe Center for Photography in the Project Competition in 2006.
Julie Blackmon: Homegrown, published by Radius Books and Robert Mann Gallery, includes an introduction by celebrated poet Billy Collins and a conversation between Blackmon and Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon. The monograph contains 40 color images of works by the artist dating from 2009–2014.