Ross Bleckner, "Green Hands and Faces," 1994. Oil on canvas, 84" x 72."
I went out to the Brooklyn Museum recently to see the Keith Haring show, and spent some time afterward wandering around through their permanent collection. When I stumbled upon this Ross Bleckner, it was kind of like seeing an old friend (even though he's someone I never met); I remember when he was showing these in Mary Boone's space on West Broadway. The pictures seemed so fresh, and so different than the more conceptually driven things that were going on in many of the other galleries. I always thought these were his best paintings - It's that soft glowing light; the "hands" and "faces" seem to alternately swell and recede depending on where you look. It also made me think about being young, but that has little do do with the painting.
Many of my friends had these same waves of nostalgia at the Haring exhibition, but I got to New York City just a hair late for all that so it didn't really work on me in that way - the Bleckner made for much more of a misty-watercolor-memory trip. But besides reminiscing about my youth, it made me think about all the painting I enjoyed looking at in those days. To read a contemporary history of the last 25 or thirty years in art, you might think there were huge swathes of time where no one painted at all - but it's not so! Peter Schuyff, Donald Sultan, and Donald Baechler were all making compelling pictures. Bleckner, of course, has managed to keep himself in the dialog. Peter Halley was making pretty good paintings (even though I always questioned the rhetoric surrounding them). Doug Ohlson was older than all of these artists, but I remember seeing a couple of marvelous shows of his in Soho at the time. And there's probably a bunch of other names I can't think of as I type this.
History and the various agendas that drive it are a funny thing - I imagine that last word is not in on that era and I feel quite sure it can't really be written until all the players and eye-witnesses, including me, are no longer among us.