A native of Queens, New York, Joe Blens is a painter working in conversation with textured surfaces, blending and writing as it is defined in the context of graffiti. Blens’ current mixed media work has found its form and language through a transitional period; one where Blens’ work evolved from primarily a street based practice into a studio practice. The studio as a meditative site has emerged as a counterpoint to the adrenaline of street based art making, offering a context for the reflection and evolution of a painting style developed over multiple decades of work as a graffiti artist.
Process is central to Blens’ approach to his newer works, which can be characterized as abstract paintings that play with perception. His geometric objects function formally with a heavy regard for texture, color, materials, and abstraction. Several of his pieces echo small cropped sections of Blens’ blockbuster fill ins where he skillfully blends with remnants of colors left in near empty spray paint cans.
Blens’ studio work retains the grime, grit, and detritus of a street aesthetic through his manipulation of surfaces that range in length or diameter from 15 inches to 32 inches. Working in a smaller scale is a sharp contrast to past work on walls as large as 10 feet by 15 feet. Unencumbered by an ethos of speed, Blens’ engagement with the spaciousness of time found in a studio practice, has allowed for an exploration of an endless amount of layering and drying time in his painting process. His own lengthy engagement with making each piece is evident in the interactive experience it provides for viewers. When walking back and forth in front of the work, colors shift and fade creating an illusion that confounds the viewer.
A conceptual continuum embedded within both Blens’ past and current work is his ongoing exploration of the ambiguous space that graffiti now occupies as both an outsider art form and a legitimate player in the contemporary art world. Most recently, Joe Blens’ current work has been featured in exhibitions at The Andrew Freedman House in the Bronx, New York, Gallery Guichard in Chicago, Illinois and Graffiti Gardens in Miami, Florida as well as Hausammann Gallery in Miami, Florida