Ross Bleckner: Quid Pro Quo

10 September - 7 November 2020

Capitain Petzel is pleased to announce Quid Pro Quo by Ross Bleckner, the artist's first solo exhibition at the Berlin gallery.


The paintings featured in Quid Pro Quo address the persistent dull ache and quiet fury of melancholia. “They are about creating and destroying the very things that you want yet also loathe, the things that break your heart as you are trying to locate it,” says Bleckner of this exhibition. The New York-based artist presents several bodies of works, ranging from his Cell Paintings — a comment on the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s — to his recent Pharmaceutria series — an antagonistic, visual retort to the divisive 2016 US Presidential elections — to works made within the last year. “These recent paintings are about psychic scars, self-doubt, negative capabilities and the attempt to scrap away mistakes,” Bleckner explains. Quid Pro Quo chronicles the continual search for light, truth and beauty; “these works, made in the solitude of my East Hampton studio, reflect on the failure of one generation to pass a better world along to the next, and the attempt, for those of us who are partly responsible for our current precarious state of affairs, to nevertheless continue to live with a modicum of peace, joy, awe and divinity.” 


Quid Pro Quo begins and ends with a painting titled After All These Years, a simple geometric work with a small red diamond in the center. The artist calls it his “heart sutra.” From After All These Years to the decentered Nearer / Firmer / Closer and the ayahuasca inspired Out of It Steps our Future and The Inverted Bowl We Call the Sky, there is a spiritual journey at play in Bleckner’s work that circles around the emotional, the theoretical, the painterly, the theatrical and the alchemical that reminds us, with cosmic irony, to question our existence.  


Bleckner accepts his fragmented body of work as a stream of consciousness in itself: “As am I, these paintings are restless, conflicted yet focused and expansive. They are simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic. I have made a deal with myself to try to be free, which is my own quid pro quo.” His interest lies in the interplay between light and shadow, both technically and metaphorically: “I’d rather bring dark out of light than layer dark overnight. It’s just my optimism, not infantile, but the childlike part of my brain that wants to make things better, make things work. There’s light at the end.”


Ross Bleckner was born in New York City and grew up in Hewlett, NY. He 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 prestigious universities in the US. During his career, Bleckner has exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, amongst others at SFMoMA, the ICA Philadelphia, Kunsthalle Zurich, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Neues Museum Nürnberg and Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Bleckner is the youngest artist to receive a mid-career retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, at the age of 45. Last year he had a solo presentation at the Neues Museum Nürnberg. Bleckner is due to have a one-person exhibition at Le Consortium in Dijon, opening in March 2021.


Works by Bleckner are held in public collections throughout the world, including MoMA and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; MoCA, Los Angeles; Tate Modern, London; The Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo and Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy.