Jeremy Blake’s Winchester Trilogy at the AGYU

The Winchester Trilogy by Los Angeles artist Jeremy Blake is the focus of the latest exhibition at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). The exhibition, which opened with a public reception on May 12, will continue until June 27. Blake’s recent work has included a video installation in New York’s Times Square, participation in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and collaborations with acclaimed film director P. T. Anderson (Punch Drunk Love, 2002) and musical experimentalist Beck (Sea Change, 2002).

Left and below: Jeremy Blake, Winchester, 2002. Still images from DVD with sound. 18 minutes continuous loop. Courtesy: Feigen Contemporary, New York

Through a stream of hallucinatory projections – his characteristic “time-based paintings” – Blake’s Winchester Trilogy charts the dark intersection between the violent history of American “Manifest Destiny” and the eccentric means to spiritual regeneration, using as its subject the famed Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.

Blake’s projections probe the psychological aura of this architectural wonder constructed by Sara Winchester, widow of the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, over the course of 38 years, beginning in the late 19th century. After suffering the death of her husband and child and informed by a deep belief in spiritualism, Winchester decided that the victims of the “gun that won the west” now haunted her. An adviser suggested that the sounds of never-ending construction of a sprawling mansion with staircases going nowhere, doorways leading out into open air several stories above ground, and miles of darkened hallways to roam would both accommodate good spirits and ward off evil ones.

Blake’s fascination with this mythic site in California, and the story of its creation and partial destruction during the 1906 earthquake, becomes rich material for his visual and aural exploration of both the mind of a guilt- addled heiress, and the quintessentially American longing for absolution and renewal.

The Art Gallery of York University is located in the North Ross Building on the Keele campus. Gallery hours are: Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm; Wednesday, 10am to 8pm; Sunday, noon to 5pm; Saturday, closed. Admission is free.