Phlebotomic is a blog experiment that seeks to gather multiple perspectives around a common prompt, which is provided weekly.

Last week's prompt was "Beauty"...

This week's prompt is "Path"...

19 January 2009

Art: Throbbing Hearts

In 1984 Ross Bleckner began a body of work incorporating ghostly semitransparent imagery set against dark, spatially illusionistic fields. Through a proliferation of floating urnlike vessels, trophies, garlands, and flowers, the artist created a morbid fin-de-si├Ęcle dream space. The memorial symbols in these works have been widely perceived as a response to the AIDS epidemic and its profound impact on the art world. Bleckner’s subsequent motifs are even more elegiac and directly related to the ravages of AIDS—starry skies; the architecture of basilicas; markings resembling Kaposi’s sarcoma and immunodeficient cells; and a constant suggestion of a glowing, otherworldly light.

Throbbing Hearts maintains the melancholy quality of all Bleckner’s work. The passages of luminous red pigment floating on a silvery gray field suggest the pulsing hearts of the painting’s title. Like other iconic forms in the artist’s work, the heart—traditionally considered the bodily seat of love and faith—is richly evocative. Bleckner’s hearts may be considered metonymic allusions to individual beings. “I have always thought of painting as skin, in a sense holding things back, ’in place,’ existing tensely over that that it represses,” Bleckner said in a 1988 interview. “The painter then X-rays parts that the skin covers and uncovers them. The metaphor is obviously figurative (skin protecting the fragility of that that it conceals) but I want the result to be abstract: it transforms itself in the making from the idea of an organ (like a throbbing close to the chest) into an idea about just throbbing.”

From the Guggenheim Collection.

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