Ross Bleckner (B. 1949)
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Ross Bleckner (B. 1949)


Ross Bleckner (B. 1949)
signed, titled and dated 'Ross Bleckner Dome 1991' (on the reverse)
oil and resin on canvas
96 x 96in. (244 x 244cm.)
Painted in 1990-1991
Mary Boone Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1991.
D. van Draetlen, 'Superproductions à la Dérive', in Beaux Arts Magazine, Paris 1991, pp. 84-91 (illustrated in colour, p. 90).
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Metropolis, 1991.
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Francis Outred
Francis Outred

Lot Essay

thought forms (in search of history)

Kazimir Malevich's Black Square was painted in a total of four variants by the artist starting in 1915. "The zero point of painting" as it has often been called by critics has been described by its maker with such words: "It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins". The supremacy of pure artistic feeling regardless the context or the visual phenomena of the objective world was the message condensed in this black square manifesto. Painted 75 years later, Ross Bleckner's Dome is a perfect square of 244 x 244cm., and, being part of the artist's famous "Architecture of the sky" canvases, has been extensively reviewed and largely contextualized within the areas of AIDS devastation (which became his life's staple), nuclear horror and loss.
In his 1995 text on Bleckner, Neville Wakefield had pointed at the possibility that "these enigmatic and fractured abstractions amount to thoughts". It should be noted here that, according to the theosophical doctrine, thoughts and emotions create distinctive patterns of colour and form in the human aura, which are visible to persons with a sufficient degree of clairvoyance.
Having witnessed the recent revisitation of this body of works by Bleckner himself in his 2014 exhibition at Mary Boone gallery (and keeping aside the stylistic differences) one can possibly attempt the leap-comparison with Malevich's concern for the movement of being and the dizzying thought and feeling processes that this entails even if the two works are strikingly different. Bleckner openly asks himself in that recent gallery show "how to distil ideas that are constantly evolving and elliptical? To where does one painting lead? And what becomes of that next painting, if thought but never made?"
Back in 1990, Dome is at the source of such questions, at the nexus of science, mysticism, architecture, biology, painting and raw feeling and at the core of a black square: as if a voyager aboard a spacecraft has actually jumped into one of the legendary black holes where the substance of the universe is sucked in and compressed ad infinitum and darkness is light that has not yet reached a destiny. This substance is creation's common denominator: the great alchemists like Hermes Trismegistus have actually commemorated the truth in "The Emerald Table"- "Whatever is below is similar to that which is above. Through this the marvels of the work of one thing are procured and perfected"; experiments have confirmed that nothing really ever dies and the fundamental particles of matter and antimatter create stars, domes, blood cells, disease, fauna and flora, skyscrapers in equal measure.
Dome is the kind of painting that reintroduces in the late twentieth century, and under developments in neurobiology, medicine, human physiology, concerns that pervaded art in the beginning of the century; concerns that survived all through the century in works which combined what Baudelaire had described as an "aspiration towards the infinite" with future premonitions and tied ancient knowledge to hard social realities. There is something sad and proverbially humane in this effort to grasp light and vision, thought and feeling, joy and pain, personal identity and the universal psyche in the measure of a canvas. Bleckner constructs Dome in a greenish gold that undermines spirituality in favour of a glorious, and copious white-washed decadence; the painting's pulsating energy field is a network of tiny cell shaped paint pools that drag cosmology into anthropogeography, fourth-dimensional perspective into anatomy, transcendence into physicality; illusion is handled with mirth and infinity somehow becomes actual instead of virtual. It is not clear if the image is contracting or expanding despite its structure related title and curvilinear impression. The very symbolism associated with the controversial term "dome" is celestial, funereal and even governmental. Despite the rather obvious architectural lead, with all its cosmotheological implications, the artist refuses any clear associations. This persistent, (even if occasionally faltering during Bleckner's career), will to not depend on a social context and freely generate forms in a constructed space and time, is linking us back to the black square and its terrible, unforgiving freedom.

Nadja Argyropoulou
September 2015

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