Irma Blank


ballpoint pen on polyester on wooden stretcher
9 1/8 x 9 1/8 inches

The word is deceptive. Since the literary critiques of the 1960s, faith in the word has been largely lost. We see it still today: words, words, words that say nothing. The word is emptied of its meaning. I try to retrieve the space of silence, the unsaid…

For the small works on paper in the ongoing series Avant-testo, I work with ballpoint pens. In smaller works, there is only room for one hand. In larger works I work with both hands full of pens, swirling both left and right arms. It is a rhythm. It’s a beautiful work to do. You lose yourself. You give yourself to it. When you start, you know nothing. I never know how a work will end. It grows; it defines itself in my hands. – Irma Blank

In her abstract drawings, Milan-based Irma Blank divorces the symbols, lines, characters, and action of writing from written language. For the Avant-testo (Before-text) series, she produces writings unencumbered by the alphabet, with the gesture standing in for words to express her meaning. Born in Germany and moving to Milan in the 1960s, Blank was one of the several conceptual artists like Mel Bochner, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner who questioned the structures of language and the various ways signs are used and interpreted in our culture.

photo credit: michael brzezinski