The Art of Collecting

We may all rely on practical lists to help order our lives, but Gregory Blackstock elevates list-making to an art form. His visual taxonomies—published this fall by Princeton Architectural Press as Blackstock’s Collections—span the generic to the unexpected. The Great World Crows contains 20 examples of that unremarkable genus, for example, while The Noisemakers lumps the traditional party popper with the “loud filthy-mouth offender, the overemotional dirtbag.” Arranged in neat horizontal rows with Blackstock’s compact upright signature on the bottom right, these catalogs of the physical world provide a glimpse into the idiosyncratic mind of the 60-year-old savant.

Blackstock, who is autistic, began drawing at 40. He researches various subjects at the library and then, using Sharpies, pencils, and gray crayons, makes freehand drawings of these items from memory. In 2004, at 58, he had his first exhibition at Seattle’s Garde Rail Gallery, which represents self-taught and outsider artists. Despite his recent critical success, the retired pot washer is refreshingly matter-of-fact. Asked whether he misses the pieces that sell, Blackstock replies, “They’re for people to buy. That’s what I’m doing.”

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