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Monday, October 31, 2016

Ross Bleckner

Bleckner and his photographic clones. Wish I could do that!
It's not often we have the opportunity to observe a fairly complete chronology of an artist's life's work. In fact, more often than not, I have to scrounge to come forth with titles, much less dates for the work of a living artist. The same is true of many second and third-tier non-living artists too. I like to present some degree of chronological order when highlighting each artist if for no other reason than it tends to document the progress (or sometimes the lack of progress) made by the artist during his or her lifetime. It also tends to show sometimes the changes of interests as to content during the artist's career. New York artist, Ross Bleckner is an Abstract Expressionist in the finest sense of the world, and also apparently rather left-brained. He actually titles each one of his works in a helpful, no-nonsense, manner, while also being quite fastidious in keeping track of the history of each piece. And as you can see in the time-lapse exposures used in the photos of Bleckner working in his studio (above), that's no small accomplishment given the number of paintings he produces each year.
Bleckner's Tribeca loft studio.
The famous artists' hangout,
the Mudd Club occupied the
ground floor.
But first, a little about the man. Born in 1949, unlike so many artists I write about, Bleckner did not have a difficult childhood. He probably lacked for little or nothing in his formative years growing up in the Hewlett communities of western Long Island, just barely outside New York City. At a time when other artists were starving to pull together the monthly rent for a cold-water, sixth-floor loft, Bleckner simply bought the building...and in Lower Manhattan's exclusive Tribeca neighborhood too, no less. His father's company manufactures electronic parts. In 1965, after encountering an art exhibit called "The Responsive Eye," Bleckner decided to become an artist. He arranged to study art with Sol LeWitt and Chuck Close while an undergraduate at New York University. There, in 1971, he received his BA. He then went on to earn an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1973, allowing him pretty much the best education money could buy.

Bleckner very much enjoys the seclusion and quiet of his rural estate.
As a rising young artist during the 1970s and 80s, Bleckner obtained gallery representation from two of the most notable artists' outlets in New York City, the Cunningham Ward Gallery, and later the Mary Boone Gallery, as well as international exposure through Thomas Ammann, an influential Swiss art dealer, who went on to collect Bleckner's work. Even while still in his early forties, Bleckner became a generous philanthropist in support of HIV/AIDS research. Then during the 1990s, Bleckner paid $800,000 for the rundown modern beach house that had once been the five-acre Truman Capote estate in Sagaponack, New York, not far from where he grew up. He remodeled and modernized the place, doubling its size, while also adding a 2,000-square-foot studio, a three-car garage, and a swimming pool (every important estate on Long Island must have a swimming pool).

Besides painting, Bleckner has written about a dozen
books dealing with his art.
At this point you're probably wishing I'd show you some of Bleckner's work, specifically the chronological development I spoke of earlier. First, though, let me note that Bleckner came of age as an Abstract Expressionist at a time when the New York School and non-representational painting were waning in popularity. The Postmodern era was dawning. And while Bleckner's work is very much in an Abstract Expressionist mode, it is not (for the most part) non-representational. In most of his work, if the content cannot immediately be discerned the titles he has attached provide vital clues. Thematically, Bleckner's art has largely centered around an investigation of change, loss, and memory, often addressing the subject of AIDS (especially in his early works). Bleckner is most at home using symbolic imagery rather than direct representation, causing his work to be visually elusive, with forms that constantly change focus.

A major difficulty in appraising an artist's evolution
is when he or she suddenly changes their main
area of content as Bleckner sometimes does.


to a Lonely Dragon


Interior (with Dots)

The Seventh
Examined Life




Parallel Dome

TIME (Why Then, Why There)

Parallel Dome,

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