Ross Bleckner (Born May 12, 1949) is an American artist. He currently lives and works in New York City.
In 1965 a viewing of The Responsive Eye, the first exhibit he ever saw, made a huge impact on him. He decided to become an artist and went on to study with Sol LeWitt and Chuck Close during his time at New York University where, in 1971, he graduated with a BA. He then went on to earn an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1973.
“‘I always absolutely thought there was a difference between being a young artist and an important young artist,'”
He was born in New York City and grew up in Hewlett, L.I. In 1974, when Bleckner moved back to New York, he moved into a Tribeca loft building. Three of the floors were rented to the painter Julian Schnabel and from 1977 to 1983 the Mudd Club, a nightclub frequented by musicians and artists, was in the same building. In 2004 Bleckner sold the building. He held his first solo exhibition in 1975 at Cunningham Ward Gallery in New York. Then In 1979 he began what was to become a long association with Mary Boone Gallery in New York. In 1981 Bleckner met Thomas Ammann, who was an influential Swiss art dealer who went on to collect Bleckner’s work.
Since either the 1980s or 1990s as an openly gay artist, his art has been largely an investigation of change, loss, and memory, often addressing the subject of AIDS. Mr. Bleckner uses symbolic imagery rather than direct representation, and his work is visually elusive, with forms that constantly change focus. While much of Bleckner’s work can be divided into distinct groups or series with motifs repeated from painting to painting, he is also in the habit of redeploying and combining old motifs.
In 1993, Bleckner bought Truman Capote’s modern beach house on a five-acre property in Sagaponack, New York for $800,000, then owned by The Nature Conservancy. Over 20 years and two major renovations, he doubled the house’s size, and had a matching 1,900 square-foot studio built on an adjoining field.
In 1995, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum had a major retrospective of his works from the last two decades of exhibitions at acclaimed institutions such as San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Works by the artist are held in collections around the world including Museum of Modern Art, NY, Museum of Contemporary Art, LA, Collezione Maramotti Italy, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.
Through his philanthropic efforts, Ross Bleckner has enabled many community organizations to perform their vital work. He is on the board of AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), a non-profit community-based AIDS research and treatment education center. Bleckner is currently a Clinical Professor of Studio Art at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. In May 2009 he was awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations. He was the first fine artist to receive the position. Later that year Ross Bleckner travelled to Gulu, Uganda to work with former children soldiers and abductees. Together the children and Bleckner created portraits and paintings, which were sold at a United Nations benefit and through his exhibition, Welcome to Gulu, at Lehmann Maupin Gallery. Proceeds raised were used to aid to UN’s effort to stop human trafficking in Uganda.