BLT Gallery opened in January 2009 in a newly renovated 2,000 square foot space on the Bowery, the nucleus of art and culture in 21st century New York. Founded by Billy Lee Thompson, a prolific collector of art across the ages, the gallery will present art of the last thirty years free from the constraints of the often overheated market. The exhibition program will serve to initiate dialogue on the continually shifting role of the art object in the new millenium, both in and out of the gallery environment.
Although the gallery's focus will remain on mid-career and established artists, it will occasionally show work from emerging talent whose artistic philosophies align with the tenets of the unique exhibition program.
The inaugural exhibition will feature new paintings and drawings from celebrated artist Jan Frank. "Kissinger and the Ladies" will be on view from January 15 – March 8, 2009.
"I think of those two beautiful paintings by Milton Resnick at Cheim & Read, or 'The Burial of St. Lucy' by Caravaggio in Syracuse, or the Dan Flavin installation at Grand Central Station, or Norman Bluhms Monolithic Paintings at ACE in New York. Nor will I ever forget walking over Vitto Acconci's Masturbation Platform Piece."
- BLT, New York 2009
Recently I came across Martha Swhwendlers piece in the Voice (thank you), Canvasing the Neighborhood/Village Voice/. I saw the next at BLT, a gallery that shows older, under-recognized artists.?
I am interested in showing any art that fits our program, whatever age.
Thirty years ago I got into a verbal fencing match with Barbra Rose about not showing an artist until they turned 30, today I am almost inclined to agree with her. In doing Wiser than God, I have taken in some of the vibrancy of these 84+year old(young) artists and their work.
This artworld has to make a shift, it does not have to be inriched with money or "the new", let it rest on it's history (art), look at it's depth and quality, the possibility of ownership of the real, not a speculation.
I personally feel that we are still working out of the 50's and should look at Barney Newman."
Billy Lee Thompson, Amsterdam May, 2009
JAN FRANK'S CURRENT STATEMANT/EXPLANATION
From 2009-2010, painter Jan Frank created the curatorial project “BLT”. The project involved putting together a gallery with designer furniture, a director, interns, and a slate of programs.“BLT” showcased work from over 50 different artists in seven different programs.
I was offered a beautiful space on the Bowery across from the New Museum, at first it seemed so uninteresting and so much work, but after the market crash in 2007 it became a viable alternative to not only show a body of work I had just completed, but to do a program. I set the stage to curate several shows that were instinctively correct and swam against the current ideological showings.
“BLT” opened with consecutive painting exhibitions. The Inaugural showing was a series Jan Frank created after a showing in Amsterdam. “Nixon” was a new series of paintings based on Henry Kissinger’s portrayal by Phillip Guston. With a warm critical reception and gallery following, “BLT” would next show two artists near and dear to Jan Frank.
I have always been a huge fan of minimalism. I put on a show with two painters I admire very much. Paul Moganson, who’s previous painting installation was years earlier at Ed Thorps’ space in Soho. Roberta Smith of the New York Times said “It was so beautiful and monumental”. Also in that show was Stephan Rosenthal, a mythic figure in the art world, whose paintings are a crime for being so good.
Then something happened to alter the game. In the Spring of 2009, Adrian Dannatt came over to Jan Frank’s studio after the press conference at the New Museum for their show “ Younger Than Jesus“, featuring artists aged 33 and younger, (BLT’s project space was across the street).
We both found the title of the show so profoundly arrogant, we could not resist coming up and doing a show “ Wiser Than God”, artists that were 83 and older and still working. We found 50 artists!
Louise Bourgeois, Lucian Freud, Ellsworth Kelly, Nancy Spero, Jonas Mekas, Arnold Mesches and over 40 other artists had work in the show. The show got written about in the New York Times, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Village Voice and many others. The show was a triumph. And now “BLT” which was a curatorial project was being written and spoken about as a legit gallery. Jan Frank started getting calls from a range of artists and even had to tell John Chamberlain that he was too young. After ‘Wiser than God’ “BLT” did a photo show with the famous portrait photographer Steve Pyke and Gerald Dearing, founder of one of the most prestigious fashion photography and film houses. And by that time, only a year after its incarnation, it was time for the final show of “BLT”.
“BLT” put me in a situation I did not want to be in. It was absorbing too much of my time, though I had a small staff who were very committed and saw this opportunity as a stepping stone, (which it was), I could not let them take ownership of the project, it was impossible to let the gallery continue without my involvement.
Herb Brown was an artist that emerged from the “Wiser than God” show. A mostly unknown talent deep in his 80’s, Herb Brown’s paintings and videotapes begged to be part of history. Also part of that final show was Francoise Gilot.
Towards the end of the show I received a call from Francoise Gilot. She asked me very politely if I could come and visit her. The most important linkto Picasso, I was honored by her asking to meet and curious. Listening to this beautiful engaging woman, seeing how vibrant both her work and history stood, it really did open something in my mind After all the shows I had done, my relationship with contemporary Art, why not finish the program with a nod to Modernism. So I did just that.
With interest from major collectors, the final show was stunning culmination and powerful end to the “BLT” project.
This project consumed huge amount of work and dedication. It would not have been possible without the help from: Lyn Backwell, Sarah Bertness, Lauren Blunck, Donna Brown, Sara Collins, Ross Epps, Angela Fabregas, Peter Fox, Helena Liliendal Hansen, Catherine Chiao-Ju Lan, John Lo and the Lo Family, Everette Milligan, Kate Secor, Alexander Schneider, and Jo-Anneke van der Molen.
February 15th, 2016