Brian Block
To Live With Great Beauty: The Julia and Peter Archer Collection

Opening Reception: June 13th, 6-8pm
Dates: June 11 - June 24

“Money is abstraction par excellence” - Amelia Groom, Art Historian

The Opening Gallery is pleased to present "To Live With Great Beauty: The Julia and Peter Archer Collection" a solo exhibition by Brian Block curated by Sozita Goudouna, PhD. The exhibition takes form as an immersive installation in the aesthetic order of the auction preview show presenting six autonomous paintings and two sculptures from Block's new "Ciphers" series. The Ciphers are new forms of painterly and sculptural abstractions which are conceptually founded in relation to financial abstractions. 

Each Cipher work finds its origins in the artist's careful consideration and repurposing of choice factual details of a selected auctioned lot. The dimensions of the auctioned work provide the impetus into material realization. In the paintings these dimensions are rendered at 100% to scale in white paint on a field of pre-primed canvas, also of a white hue. In the Cipher sculptures, the dimensions of each auctioned sculpture is captured in a sealed volume of space for presentation within carefully created vitrines. According to Block, "the Ciphers are not homages or copies, they replace the auctioned artwork with the idea of it," thus, by elevating selected facets of the seemingly dormant auctioned lots into a new form of painterly and sculptural abstraction, Block severs the pictorial qualities of the auctioned lot from its financial dimensions to propose new modes of consideration. 

The sculptural Ciphers which inhabit vitrines-as-sculptural-forms, are shaped by the artist's engagement with the "staging of the pictorial event" in art. Parallel to the ways in which the staging of works in an auction showroom shapes the reception of the works soon to be for sale, the vitrine as a sculptural form occupies a important place in the history of art and its display. This sculptural language of vitrine-structured abstraction may invoke a lineage of artists known for innovations in this realm: Paul Thek, Jeff Koons and Mark Dion, most notably. However, the move engagement of Block's work with abstract financial immateriality eludes any reliance on its antecedents.

 Importantly in this creative matrix, Block connects his abstract works to financial considerations while occluding selected facts of each auction lot such as the artwork title, the artist name, date, provenance, buyer name. The selected pieces of information Block retains tellingly find their mention in the titles. What remains are words placing an emphasis on the material dimension of their absence: oil on canvas, notations of signatures, dedications, often the sold price in the currency of its sale. 

However, the question about the significance of the term Cipher and the artist's selected term of titling the works in this series remains. The origins of the term are found in the Arabic notions of the number zero, a numerical abstraction critical to the history of ideas. In our time, cipher denotes a non-entity or empty vessel which is at once a thing and a denoted vacant space to be occupied in the future by an as yet unknown entity or identity. "A Cipher is something which is at once an entity - almost transparent, almost a non entity - which can hold our projections lightly." according to Block. A curator recently argued using the noted comment by Rothko that "there is no such thing as a good painting about nothing," and Block added "it depends upon which nothing one is referring to." 

The exhibition marks the second project by Brian Block engaging financialization and its related perceptual shifts, following his "Notes of F. Wott: File 12: On Money" of 2022. This street-posted print project is driven by a compendium of thoughts and ideas on what Block as called financial perception: "the influence of financial values as they are directed upon other forms of reality."

About the Artist

Brian Block's work derives from original research into the language, ideology, and reality production methods of chosen "perceptual authorities." His work often involves repurposing the results of his research into art as a "form of counter knowledge." He lives and works in NYC and studies at SVA and the Whitney Independent Study Program. A full bio can be found at