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Conceptual artist Nayland Blake's use of the character of a bunny rabbit in his artwork began as a way of discussing the stereotype of homosexual male promiscuity. When he began to investigate the complexity of identity, taking into account his gender and sexuality as well as his own biracial mix of African and European heritage, he started to see the bunny in the context of not only a pop cultural icon that could be subverted to express gay identity but also as the African American folk hero of the Uncle Remus tales.

Wit, wisdom, strength, and endurance are the characteristics of this archetypal trickster that is the focus of Blake's new drawings. The drawings hold the rabbit up as a standard that, as both a homosexual male and an African American, Blake has had to maintain in life. It represents the persistence and resistance that is necessary for any marginalized person to remain true to his/her cultural values.

The work presented here operates in groups with titles that are central to their understanding. "When 2 R in Love," a three part drawing, could most easily refer to Blake's long term relationship with another man. Like the other groupings, "When 2 R in Love" suggests a broken narrative with different scenes of the tale set apart in separate frames. The groups seem to function like parts of a memory or a dream or strips of film left on the edit room floor.

There is a youthful casualness to Blake's virtuoso drawings that doesn't want to give away the whole story or highlight his technical skill as a draughtsman. His arrangement of the drawings leaves us with a montage full of suggested meanings. "Bunny Group, The Grind," a seven part drawing, seems to refer to the day in day out work of maintaining sanity in a crazy, cartoon-like world.

In the same way that rabbits naturally are not solitary creatures, the grouping of drawings points to Blake's interests as an individual operating in a world of individuals. Blake's is a conceptual art that uses a personal vocabulary to speak of larger social issues.

Arnold J. Kemp


"When 2 R in Love", 1996/7
Graphite and colored pencil on paper
9 x 12 inches each
3 part drawing


"Bunny Group, Two Holes", 1996/7
Graphite and colored pencil on paper
8 Sheets: 12 x 9 inches each
"Bunny Group, Happiness", 1996/7
Graphite and colored pencil on paper
12 x 9 inches each
4 part drawing


"Bunny Group, The Grind", 1996/7
Graphite and colored pencil on paper
7 Sheets: 12 x 9 inches each
All images courtesy:
Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC

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Other Artists in "Heavy Petting"