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Oakland Museum of California Announces New Spring Exhibition Celebrating the Legacy and Lifestyle of Renowed Northern California Craftsman J.B. Blunk

(OAKLAND, CA) December 19, 2017— This Spring, the Oakland Museum of California celebrates design and craft in a new exhibition titled J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life. Opening April 21, 2018 in the Oakland Museum of California’s (OMCA) Gallery of California Art, the exhibition explores the life and work of J.B. Blunk (American,1926–2002), a California artist who deeply appreciated the beauty in the everyday life, and whose work continues to inspire all Californians and people who appreciate the connection between creative expression and the natural world.

A broad survey of the artist’s life work, J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life brings together over 80 objects to inspire museum visitors to see the beauty of nature and art in the everyday. In addition to the exhibition, visitors are encouraged to view one of Blunk’s most well-known worksThe Planet, a redwood seated-sculpture weighing two tons and measuring thirteen feet in diameter, on view permanently. Commissioned by OMCA in 1969, the year of the Museum’s opening, OMCA’s building was completed around the sculpture, which is situated at the heart of the Museum on the first level outside of the Gallery of California Natural Sciences.

“As we begin planning for the 50th anniversary of the Oakland Museum of California’s 1969 opening in 2019, it seems especially appropriate to pay homage to the artist whose work lies at the very heart of our landmark building. OMCA was quite literally constructed around J.B. Blunk’s The Planet, which continues to serve as a point of entry to our Gallery of California Natural Sciences and has served for decades as a beloved and iconic meeting and gathering place, especially for families during our Friday Nights @ OMCA activities,” said OMCA Director and CEO Lori Fogarty.

The exhibition will feature rare photographs, quotes from those who knew Blunk, and examples of his early works. Handmade clothing, jewelry, and accessories will also be on view. Examples of Blunk’s larger wood and stone works will also be displayed, providing yet another example of Blunk’s connection to the natural world through the materials that he used. An ambient video featuring Blunk’s Inverness home, surrounding landscape, and art studio will be projected in the room, along with photographs of the Inverness valley, which was the inspiration for so much of his work.

A space dedicated to Blunk’s work on The Planet includes archival photographs of the sculpture in process. A captioned video with intimate interviews from family, friends, and colleagues who knew Blunk best will provide in-depth insight into who the artist was, how he worked, and why he had such a deep desire to collect and make.

“Blunk was an inspirational artist who forged his own pathway and remained committed to building his life and practice in concert with the land,” said Carin Adams, Curator of Art. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase Blunk’s extraordinary works, from large-scale wood sculpture to everyday objects such as his ceramic cups. We hope visitors will leave this exhibition with an understanding of who Blunk was, and how they too can appreciate the beauty in the everyday, as Blunk did.”

J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life is supported in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board and members of the Donor Forum. The exhibition will be on view April 21 through September 9, 2018 in OMCA’s Gallery of California Art. 

Press images available to download in the online press room.

Inspired by Japanese philosophy of nature and art’s inseparability, the late J.B. (James Blain) Blunk (American, 1926–2002) was a mid-century artist who found inspiration in the natural beauty surrounding his Northern California home in Inverness, California. Blunk worked primarily with the organic materials that he found, creating handcrafted furniture, ceramics, and sculptures out of clay, wood, and stone that he collected.

In the late 1960s, Blunk was a maverick artist living off the land in Marin County, making sculptural furniture that disregarded the line between art and craft. Before he arrived in Northern California, he studied ceramics under Laura Andreson at UCLA. Upon graduation, Blunk was drafted into the Korean War and arranged to be discharged in Japan, where a chance encounter with Isamu Noguchi led to apprenticeships with the famed potters Kitaoji Rosanjin and Toyo Kaneshige. These transformational experiences and relationships set the course for his unique approach to art.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history, and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCAs groundbreaking exhibits tell the many stories that comprise California with many voices, often drawing on firstperson accounts by people who have shaped Californias cultural heritage. Visitors are invited to actively participate in the Museum as they learn about the natural, artistic, and social forces that affect the state and investigate their own role in both its history and its future. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of Californias dynamic cultural and environmental heritage.


The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $15.95 general; $10.95 seniors and students with valid ID, $6.95 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. There is a $4 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitionsOMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum.


RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom

March 24–August 12, 2018
Hip-Hop is one of the widest reaching cultural and social movements of the last 50 years. Discover the unexpected story of how Hip-Hop changed the world, starting from its roots on the streets, before rap, DJing, street art, breakdancing, and street fashion launched into mainstream popular culture. Learn about the West Coast’s and San Francisco Bay Area’s influences on this global phenomenon. Hear first-person accounts from artists and experts about how, beyond big business, Hip-Hop continues to provide a platform for creative expression, activism, youth development, and education. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.


Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead
Through January 14, 2018

This year, OMCA’s biennial Days of the Dead exhibition is inspired by the lifecycle of the Monarch Butterfly. Known for its mass migration each winter, this butterfly’s journey spans several generations, all of whom follow the same routes their ancestors took. In Mexico, the returning Monarchs also symbolize the returning souls of loved ones who have passed away.

In Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead, explore ofrendas and artworks inspired by the Monarch’s migration and themes of tradition and transformation. View rarely-seen butterfly specimens from OMCA’s collection alongside newly commissioned artworks. Artist Hung Liu honors her mother’s passing through a series of hearfelt paintings. Favianna Rodriguez ponders migration and immigration in a new way using her “Migration is Beautiful” butterfly imagery. Chris Treggiari and Peter Foucault honor colleague Alex Ghassan, who lost his life in the tragic Ghost Ship fire. And, traditonal Days of the Dead altars by Bea Carrillo Hocker and Rafael Jes
ús González, as well as installations by Oakland International High School and Thornhill Elementary School, energize this connumal space for reflection and empowerment in these turbulent times.

Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown
Through January 21, 2018
This fall, experience the world premiere of Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown, a dazzling immersive experience that takes you through the rainbow into another world. A one-of-a-kind and interactive environment by FriendsWithYou—the artist collective including Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III—the large-scale, light-filled installation sparks joy and positivity, and sets the stage for friendship, magic, and social connection. A soothing, multi-sensory experience for all ages, we invite you to allow your senses to get lost in this imaginative and otherworldly place. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.

Question Bridge: Black Males

Through February 25, 2018
Hailed as one of the Bay Areas Top Exhibitions in 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Question Bridge: Black Males returns to the Oakland Museum of California this fall. Immerse yourself in intimate videoswoven together and arranged to simulate facetoface conversations between participantsamong a diverse group of 150 Black men across the United States. Hear these men answer each others questions with exceptional honesty and vulnerability, and share stories, beliefs, and values in a personal portrayal of their lives. Encompassing themes of family, love, interracial relationships, community, education, and wisdom, Question Bridge: Black Males presents nuanced portraits of past, present, and future of Black men in American society. Listen, watch, learn, and start your own conversations with this profoundly moving installation.

2012, the Oakland Museum of California presented Question Bridge: Black Males, an innovative and widely exhibited video installation from artists Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. Joining the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Brooklyn Museum, OMCA is proud to acquire this groundbreaking and poignant work for its collection.

Take Root: Oakland Grows Food
Through January 13, 2019
Unearth Oaklands multilayered world of food in Take Root: Oakland Grows Food, an exhibition exploring aspects of growing food in Oakland. Enjoy this handson exhibition with the entire family to understand what factors determine where, how, why, and what is grown throughout the city. Hear personal stories from farmers and growers within the community, see compelling illustrations and maps, and meet the diverse flavors of Oakland. Learn what motivations Oaklanders have for growing foodincluding access to healthy and delicious ingredients, environmental and social justice values, or simply the joy of tending a garden. Visitors will be invited to share personal stories, explore interactive activities, and gain a deeper understanding of Oaklands agriculture.

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