Even if you don’t know art, you know Jonathan Blum.
Everyone knows the affable painter, thanks mostly to his whimsical portraits of dogs, cats, rabbis and other pets. But part of the credit for Blum’s ubiquity stems from a seemingly random decision he made in 1999 to rent a storefront on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue instead of renting a conventional art studio.
“In retrospect, that was the most important decision that I ever made as an artist,” said the prolific Blum, who is the subject of a 10-year retrospective that will run from Dec. 3-Jan. 14. “I had just moved from Washington, DC to Brooklyn and I was thinking, ‘What have I done? The last thing New York needs is another artist.’ But once the storefront opened, it all changed.”
Blum was quickly priced out of that first location between Third and Fourth streets, but soon reopened in a much-smaller spot between First and Second streets.
The sign on the door reads, “Open by appointment and by luck,” but you don’t have to own a crystal ball to spot Blum painting away most nights after 10 pm.
“People stop by and talk — and that’s why this is such a great thing,” he said. “What began as a random act — renting that storefront — has created an entirely different idea of what a working artist is.”
His work is not highbrow, but it certainly is arresting. A series of paintings of dogs with watermelons on their heads looks great in the nursery, while his portraits of rabbis and other religious figures offers a relief from the stiff reverence of most religious art.
Opening party for Jonathan Blum’s “Rabbis, Goats and Other Characters” at the Green Building [450 Union St. at Bond Street in Gowanus, (917) 855-6564] from 6:30 pm to after midnight. Work will be on display Thursdays and Saturdays through Jan. 14, 2010.