Artist Gregory Block’s newest exhibition “Alchemy” takes shape at First Friday Artwalk
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Gregory Block has an innate sense of curiosity. One that’s guided him to embrace mystery and the unknown.
“As a student of biology, it became increasingly clear to me that both pursuits are all about curiosity, about closely investigating the world in which we live and experimenting with ways in which we as humans might improve that world,” said Block, a local artist who’s known for his still-life oil paintings and other works, which are displayed in galleries in Steamboat Springs, Denver, Chicago and other venues around the country.
For an artist, blank space can be daunting, but for Block, it’s a source of inspiration.
“When I moved into a new home last year, I was quickly faced with a whole bunch of blank wall space that needed to be filled,” Block said. “The house is all rectangles, squares and right angles, and it occurred to me that some curved shapes would help offset the geometry.”
Block’s newest project, “Alchemy,” combines chemistry, mystery and art, and it is the featured exhibit at Gallery 89 and can be viewed during this month’s First Friday Artwalk from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7.
“I’m an artist, so what the heck, why not think outside the box and make some work that’s not all straight edges,” Block said.
This series of aluminum can mandalas seeks to explore the concept of transmutation by using common materials to develop a framework from which any known substance can be created.
Each piece — constructed, essentially, from discarded or recycled aluminum cans treated with fire, cut into triangles and nailed to a pre-painted panel — represents a specific element on the periodic table thanks to the etching Block coded into each piece.
“Landing on the periodic table idea, I realized I could create any element or molecule in the world simply by using common, everyday materials,” said Block, who majored in biology at Colorado College. “That’s alchemy in a nutshell.”
With each mandala serving as a particular atom, Block said he could construct specific molecules by arranging pieces in groups. For example, alcohol (C ₂H ₅OH) was hung near the bar and caffeine (C8H10N4O2) in the living room where he often enjoys his morning coffee at sunrise.
A small atom, he explained, might take about six hours to make from start to finish, so a piece like “Caffeine” with 24 atoms, took about 150 hours to create.
“The process of building these is a sort of magical science, a sort of alchemy, as is the process of recycling aluminum cans into artworks that transcend the material,” Block said.
This process, he’s observed, is not unlike oil painting in the sense that it distills all the essential aspects of design — namely value, color, texture, shape, line and edges — to create a composition.
“He basically created a new medium which is true revolution in the art world,” said Rufina Tegeder, owner of Gallery 89.
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