Ross Bleckner was born in 1949 in New York. Bleckner received a Bachelor of Arts from New York University in 1971, a Master of Fine Arts from Cal Arts in 1973, and has taught at many of the nation's most prestigious universities. Bleckner’s works are glowing and contemplative, blending abstraction with recognizable symbols to create meditations on perception, transcendence and loss.
Ross Bleckner’s immersive, large-scale paintings elicit a powerful hypnotic, dizzying effect. Whether pure abstraction of stripes or dots or more representational renderings of birds, flowers, and urns, Bleckner’s work recalls Op Art and the obsessive and mysterious luminosity of Yayoi Kusama’s Polka-dot paintings. Smoothly layered on the canvas surface against a darker gray background, his multicolored volumetric circles or “cells” look like droplets of blood or molecules viewed under a microscope. Emerging as a prominent artist in New York during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, Bleckner’s paintings, like memento mori, often suggest meditations on the body, health, disease, and especially AIDS-related death.
In 1984 Bleckner’s art attracted a burst of attention when he had a single large painting on view at Nature Morte in New York’s East Village. Around this time, he was painting canvases he viewed as memorials, in which candelabras, vases, chandeliers, and rococo motifs seem to float against dark grounds. This imagery was in part a response to the AIDS crisis. Later paintings also manifest his sense of loss stemming from the disease. Some paintings, such as 8,122+ as of January 1986 (1986), bear titles reflecting the number of people who had died of AIDS to date; others are commemorative works dedicated to individuals; still others employ patterns of dots to suggest the lesions produced by AIDS-related sarcomas.
In the early 1990s, he made his first Cell paintings, which make reference to diseased human cells. From that time, he has continued to paint aspects of the body viewed at the microscopic level, including forms related to DNA and cancer cells, the latter in response to his father’s unsuccessful battle with the disease.
Not only has Bleckner had a profound impact of shaping the New York art world, his philanthropic efforts have enabled many community organizations to perform their vital work. For ten years Bleckner served as president of AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), a non-profit community-based AIDS research and treatment education center. More recently, he has been working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Northern Uganda to help rehabilitate and raise money for ex-child soldiers. In May 2009 Bleckner was awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations.
Bleckner’s works have been shown in esteemed public collections throughout the world, including MoMA, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, California; Collezione Maramotti Museum, Italy; Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Bleckner is also recognized as the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.