Zander Blom

Few cultural forms have been as mythologized in the twentieth century as rock music. Beyond the music itself, the tradition of rock bands touring, with bacchanalian entourages of drug buddies and groupies, has become a source of the folktales of modern life, usually with in-built morals about the dangers of excess and the inevitable slide into decay. It is into this milieu that Zander Blom’s second solo exhibition, The Travels of Bad, inserts itself.

Few cultural forms have been as mythologized in the twentieth century as rock music. Beyond the music itself, the tradition of rock bands touring, with bacchanalian entourages of drug buddies and groupies, has become a source of the folktales of modern life, usually with in-built morals about the dangers of excess and the inevitable slide into decay. It is into this milieu that Zander Blom’s second solo exhibition, The Travels of Bad, inserts itself. Blom’s chosen iconography, steeped in their heavy associations with rock mythology, are familiar: pentagrams, demonic skulls, copies of Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster guitars, a Marshall amplifier. With this palette he fashions an odd, at times sharply self-reflexive narrative: Scene 5: Rent a Bungalow-flat in Paradise: Prince of the Neon Philharmonic Beneficial Wilderness reads as an overt reference to Blom’s own pre-fame days, with its array of doodles, instruments and a crack-house-chic mattress on the floor.From these humble beginnings, Bad traverses a parallel rock universe, encountering along the way his requisite motley crew of characters, like the Performing Six Legged Albino Crocodile, the naked teenage devil Kasbah, a Lucifer of chord progressions and the Mosquitoes of Deathness. All representative of the kinds of people one presumably meets in the rock world, these jailbait temptresses, fret-wanking guitarists and exploitative managers are occasionally difficult to extract from the dense, stream-of-semi-consciousness paragraphs that accompany each image. The overall effect is like participating in an adolescent’s first acid trip, which is, I guess, spot on.It is probably a key irony that, despite its titular suggestion of road tripping, The Travels of Bad happens entirely in one corner of Blom’s Brixton house. The 17 scenarios detailing Bad’s rise and fall are given form through art-directed tableaux, made up of endless permutations of musical instruments, inflatable snakes, DIY scenery and gallons of paint. Each episode involves a radical recasting of the fixed space. Imagine Joseph Conrad scripting a pop-punk music video with only enough budget for a single camera on a tripod. That this stasis speaks about unrealised ambition is the pathos that gives depth to the show’s bluster. Bad’s Travels happen seemingly entirely in his head. The topography of the room’s corner, with wooden floors, pressed ceilings and a fireplace, stubbornly weathers the aesthetic storms, a touchstone of reality amid Bad’s insane trajectory.Blom has emerged from the success of 2007’s The Drain of Progress (and its inevitable pressure to avoid a sophomoric slump) with a more evolved artistic purpose. In between all the play-acting here, there is a greater authenticity to this body of work, as Blom obliquely and critically tracks his own meteoric rise.
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