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Ross Bleckner
American, b. 1949

Screenprint on Paper

SSWB 4735

An exhibition of Op Art propelled Ross Bleckner into a career as an artist. Op is an abstract style including optical illusions that give the impression of movement or vibrating patterns. His own mature style does not vibrate and hum like Op Art, but it does employ a signature, all over pattern that could have been inspired by his teenage exhibition experience. Unlike Op, however, Bleckner infuses his patterns with a melancholic quality. As a young gay man, coming of age during the HIV-AIDS crisis, Bleckner experienced the loss and loneliness that many did in that era and expresses it in his art. In the mid-eighties his paintings included chandeliers, urns and other objects emerging from a dark background with light flares softening the focus and creating a sombre effect. Later series include birds, constellations, and cell-like structures, all with similar blurred surfaces making the subjects appear transient and ephemeral.

When asked what inspired the flower paintings which appeared in the nineties, such as PS, I, II, and III, Bleckner referenced the work of earlier artists such as Emil Nolde and Edourd Manet. Here, as in his other series, the subject, the individual flowers, float in and out of focus and are visually elusive. As with real flowers that bloom and fade rapidly, they may represent the fleeting nature of beauty and life. Bleckner’s process mimics the life of a flower. He starts by painting them carefully then scrapes off the paint with a palette knife leaving just a trace of something on the canvas. The soft, nearly translucent, nature of the flowers in this screenprint have that quality. Rather than vibrant, intense, lively colors we see some palimpsests or shadow of the original. Bleckner has said that an artist may pursue a spiritual search for meaning outside of him/herself and these transient images reference that seeking for meaning in the loss of life and love.

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