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Center Quarterly, Winter 1984


MARC BLANE deals with the recycled detritus utilized by the very poor and homeless. For a piece called Abandoned Buildings, he collected six thousand pint-sized wine bottles from garbage cans all over New York City. Labeled Thunderbird, Night Train, or any of a half dozen other brands, the familiar green bottles were all identical, made for Gallo. Blane cleaned the bottles and placed one of four photographs of abandoned buildings inside each one. The images have singed edges, which symbolize the burn-out aspect of both the buildings and the winos.

Abandoned Buildings: One Case / 24 Bottles - 1980 - 9" x 11" x 14" (closed box) - glass wine bottles, burned photographs, cardboard

The artist made sculptures by repackaging the bottles into cases of twentyfour, just as they had come, full of wine, from Modesto, California. Hundreds of others have been sold individually for ten dollars apiece and Blane has also given many away, feeling that everyone who owns one becomes part of the work. Ironically, the lowliest of cultural artifacts is often placed on shelves with valued objects in people's homes.

Blane combines two traditional, modernist forms; assemblage and documentary photography. He deals in found objects, but does not appropriate images or forms in a self-conscious manner. His unambiguous political message is of paramount importance, and it is best communicated when it is expressed within the bounds of generally understood conventions. Though their edges are singed, his pictures are utilized for their journalistic properties. They are notes within bottles; an S.O.S for social change. In a sense, they constitute an expose.

In 1921, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray worked together to produce Belle Haleine, an image of a bottle of eau de violette with a photograph of Duchamp dressed up as his alterego, "Rose Selavy", on the label. More relevant than the creation of a persona (which relates to Ellis's traveling salesman), is the fact that they were parodying the use of pictures in commercial art. It is significant that only the most specifically political of the artists discussed here, Marc Blane, uses pictures to witness what he believes to be a truth.

Glass Wine Bottle - 1980 - 9" x 4" x 2" - glass wine bottle, burned photograph