Mod Lang, 2001
Mod Lang was first the title of a larger installation that included two other digital animations, three chromogenic prints, and a set of ten drawings that provided a sort of storyboard for the show. There, the drawings told Blake’s story of a teenage hipster, Keith (“Slick”) Rhoades, who wrecks his motor scooter on a rainy London street one night. Believed to have suffered brain damage due to the accident, Rhoades razes a historic castle and in its place erects a home for stylish vampires. This leads him to be banished from England and sent to southern California, where he lives happily in exile. The three projected animations, on a separate wall from the drawings, were loosely related to the story. In the title animation, Mod Lang, sliding doors part to reveal what might be a hallucinogenic image of the slick street on which Rhoades crashed. Rivulets of rich, viscous hues stream down the screen—expanding, contracting, overlapping, and merging into one another.These streams of color evoke the mid-twentieth-century paintings of Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, who explored the possibilities of color saturation by pouring paint onto unprimed canvases. The influential critic Clement Greenberg championed these color-field artists, whose work represented his ideal of modern painting, which was that it should simply be about the application of paint to a flat surface. Blake consciously referenced the color-field paintings but also purposely linked them to a story and, by setting them in a continuous animated loop, created the illusion that their flow is perpetual.
Blake’s approach to his art—at once serious and lighthearted—is succinctly conveyed in his explanation of the title Mod Lang, which originally was the title of a song by the Memphis rock band Big Star:
"To me, “Mod Lang” calls up a nice range of possible interpretations. It could be short for something as high-minded as “modernist language,” or it could be “languid mods,” maybe after a group of young people who are blissfully wiped out after being up for 48 hours.(2)"