Ross Bleckner (b. 1949)
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Ross Bleckner (b. 1949)

The Past Tense of Light

Details
Ross Bleckner (b. 1949)
The Past Tense of Light
signed, titled and dated 'Ross Bleckner 1986 "THE PAST TENSE OF LIGHT"' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
108 x 84in. (274.3 x 213.5cm.)
Painted in 1986
Provenance
Mary Boone Gallery, New York.Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich.
Private Collection.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Exhibited
Tampere, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Contemporary American Art, 1988, no. 12 (illustrated in colour). This exhibition later travelled to Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus.
Dijon, Consortium, Une autre affaire, 1989-1990.
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, A Perspective on Contemporary Art: Painting - Singular Object, 1995-1996, no. 45 (illustrated in colour, p. 96). This exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art.
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Sale room notice
Please note that the work is incorrectly illustrated in the printed catalogue.

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Rachel Boddington
Rachel Boddington

Lot Essay

‘They [the stripe paintings] brought me to a way of working that has this continuous, pulsating, inner glow that keeps pushing itself. […] I don’t want to me them simply stripe paintings. I want them to be emblematic’ (R. Bleckner, quoted in In the Power of Painting, Zurich 2000, p. 132

Ross Bleckner possessed great self-confidence and an insouciant attitude to modern avant-garde thinking while studying Fine Art at New York University in 1971. New forms of expression such as installation and performance art dominated the artistic world at that time, and painting was practiced almost exclusively within a strict minimalist concept. It was in this context that a group of young artist whose painting would be influential in shaping the art of the 1980s gathered at the Californian Institute of Art: they included Eric Fischl, David Salle and Ross Bleckner. Bleckner’s first solo museum exhibition was held in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and his midcareer retrospective was organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1995.

The Past Tense of Light is an encapsulating example of the new postmodernist art which Bleckner sought to create. By infusing simple coloured shapes or stains into the canvas, the strict, geometric pattern is interrupted and becomes a background. This placement is enhanced by the suggestion of an atmosphere hanging over the bars of black and white. The interaction of soft colour and hard line creates a kind of brightness and depth. The piece’s ambiguous relationship to abstraction and representation is apparent in its references to landscape and clouds as shown by the coloured forms. The painting of stripes, a constant formal factor in Bleckner’s work, are a metaphor for our imprisonment within a wider context, but are also regarded as a quotation from Op Art: an artistic current of the sixties that led to nowhere, a critical commentary on the inability of modernism to produce any answers relevant to our own times. Bleckner describes that ‘They [the stripe paintings] brought me to a way of working that has this continuous, pulsating, inner glow that keeps pushing itself. […] I don’t want to me them simply stripe paintings. I want them to be emblematic’ (R. Bleckner, quoted in In the Power of Painting, Zurich 2000, p. 132). He deliberately engages art historical themes by filling the fictitious spaces of his paintings with high symbolic content and emotional potential, questioning the beginning and the end, life and death, light and darkness, bound up with the desire for order and a yearning for beauty.

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