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Peter Blake Gallery celebrates 25 years of fine art with exhibit and reception on June 30

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

To commemorate its 25th anniversary, Peter Blake Gallery presents an exhibit aptly named “Twenty Five Years,” which incorporates both historic and recent West Coast Abstraction. Blake invites the community to join the opening celebration at a reception on Sunday, June 30 from noon to 2 p.m.

To date Peter Blake Gallery is the longest-running gallery exhibiting West Coast Minimalism and has become internationally known as a gallery that has carved a niche. The Gallery honors this longevity with a presentation of works by Lita Albuquerque, Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Ron Cooper, Mary Corse, Tony Delap, Laddie John Dill, Joe Goode, James Hayward, Scot Heywood, Craig Kauffman, John McCracken, John M. Miller, Marcia Hafif, Ron Nagle, Helen Pashgian, Hadi Tabatabai, and De Wain Valentine. 

Over half of the pieces in the exhibit are on loan from major collections and Blake says, “This gives visitors the opportunity to view works they might never have had the opportunity to see.” At the close of the exhibit in August, they will go back to their owners. 

Peter Blake sign

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Peter Blake Gallery relocated to the current location in 2008

When entering the gallery, it’s immediately apparent that it is an extraordinary space – three to be exact. It has a serene and almost sacred feeling, as if stepping through the door of a church. This peaceful aura wasn’t created by happenstance.

Blake says, “Some contemporary fine art is politically driven, everything has a strong message. These works are peaceful and quiet, they reflect and absorb light like the ocean and sand.”

A shift to minimalism

In 2008 when Blake moved his gallery from North Laguna to Ocean Ave – it was a beauty supply store and before that The Diane Nelson Gallery – he shifted exclusively into minimalism. He gutted the interior and divided it into three areas, the first with natural light, the second with natural and controlled light, the third contains totally controlled light. “The pieces capture the traveling of light. Sometimes the shadows are as beautiful as the work itself,” he says.

The snow-blink white walls are hung with a scattering of works, some have their own “nooks and crannies” as he describes them. Blake has the opinion that less is more, and the austere quality only adds to the mystique of the space. 

Peter Blake Alexander

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Work by Peter Alexander 1-10-14

Blake explains, “West Coast Minimalism originated in the 1960s and 1970s. Artists visiting the California Coast weren’t interested in brushes to capture the white light of the beaches and ocean. They were using resin and metal with auto paint.”

Blake brings together the sub-categories of West Coast Minimalism – Light and Space, Finish Fetish, Cool School, and Hard-Edge – in the installation, and it appears as a wonderfully cohesive whole.

Each work of art is strategically placed. Blake says, “The installation is done over time. As works come in, they are placed in composition with the other pieces, so they form a collage. Each new show presents a challenge.” 

Milestones

Milestones often bring reflections on the past, and as Blake observes the occasion of the Gallery’s 25th anniversary, he contemplates his history in Laguna, his 55th birthday on Thursday, his first six months as a Council member, and his recent purchase of the building that houses the Gallery, the first property he has owned in Laguna.

As exquisite as the Gallery is, Blake says, “A brick and mortar location isn’t necessary, most of my business is done online and at art fairs, but I love Laguna and being part of the community and its rich artistic history.”

Peter Blake interior

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Blake recently purchased the building that houses the Gallery

He and his wife Stephanie Bachiero travel all over the world for the art fairs – London, Paris, Sydney. 

The Gallery has been accepted into this year’s edition of Salon Art + Design New York, and this fall, they will be highlighting Brazilian Design and California Minimalism in their booth at the fair. They have also applied the Antoine Philippon & Jacqueline Lecoq solo presentation to Design Miami. 

Art fairs

Some of the recent fairs they’ve attended are: Seattle Art Fair 2017, Peter Alexander Solo Presentation at Expo Chicago 2018, and Fred Eversley Solo Presentation at the Armory Show 2018.

“I’m very proud to represent Laguna Beach at these art fairs,” Blake says.

When he came here in the 1980s, he said, “I’d never lived in a small town.” But he was smitten once he drove past the house on top of the ridge at the south end of Crystal Cove. He was born in Long Island, NY, lived in Dallas and Washington, D.C., and when he arrived here, worked as a waiter at Romeo Cucina. 

Peter Blake Valentine and Miller

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On left, De Wain Valentine, “Concave Circle Rose,” 1968; on right, John Miller, “Untitled,” 1995

With the new Gallery location came a different artistic direction, which he felt intuitively he should focus on, but it wasn’t without its downsides. The move took place just as the recession hit in September of 2008.

“It was a huge transition,” he says. “But as an art dealer, I couldn’t realize my full potential, so I made a dramatic shift. It took a while to get the Gallery off the ground. I worked at Romeo Cucina for five years until it became profitable. Now a lot of my business is buying and selling and remarketing of works we sold in the 1990s.”

Highs and lows

Blake and his wife, artist Stephanie Bachiero, have entered another artistic realm, incorporating design into collectible pieces. They have recently shown at Palm Springs Modernism Show Spring Edition 2019, KEM Weber Walt Disney Studio Designs at Design Miami 2018, and The Tendency of the Moment | International Deign: The Bauhaus Through Modern, Peter Blake Gallery 2017.

He has also survived through three recessions. “People stop buying art,” he says.

Even though there have been lows, Blake says the best part of being an art dealer is “doing exactly what you love to do, knowing you won’t get rich, but it’s rewarding.”

Peter Blake Lita

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Lita Albuquerque, “Untitled,” 2019, 24K gold leaf on resin, pigment on panel

“We do most of our business online and at fairs, so we could live anywhere in the world, but we choose to live in Laguna because we love this place. By purchasing this building, I’m saying I’m going to be here for the rest of my life.”

Excerpted from an essay written for the anniversary by prominent collector/Gallery friend Gisela Colon, she says, “Peter Blake falls into this category of the classic quintessential old-fashioned gallerist. He is one of them, not because he has been in the art world for twenty-five years – though this in and of itself is a feat of endurance and undeterred presence – but most importantly because he has the eye. By any tangible metric, Peter possesses the intangible asset of seeing the aesthetic of the future.”

Peter Blake Gallery is located at 435 Ocean Ave.

For more information, go to www.peterblakegallery.com or call (949) 376-9994.