Ronald BladenOctober 1, 2019 - March 31, 2022
Ronald Bladen (1918–1988) was regarded as an artistic forerunner by Minimalists like Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt and Carl Andre. But in contrast to the matter-of-fact work of these artists, Bladen’s sculptures are charged with emotional power. Their themes include the force of gravity, the dynamism of planar surfaces, the impact of scale and confrontation with the viewer.
After a competition that included entries by Richard Serra and Claes Oldenburg among others, the important European collector and gallery director Alfred Schmela commissioned Bladen to create Flying Fortress to stand in front of the engineering school at the University of Düsseldorf. The project was cancelled after Schmela’s sudden death. Bladen wrote tellingly of Flying Fortress at the time of the commission, “The motivation of this form was to produce the illusion of a stationary object moving through space yet anchored to the earth. Not to give one that much time to dwell on it but more to feel as it rushes by. There is a front and a back and two sides but only one direction.
Host of the Ellipse is notable for the difference between its two elements. Both parts, executed in aluminum and painted semi-gloss black, comprise trapezoidal lower areas that have deep notches cut into them. From these trapezoids, blade-like arms extend, one vertically while the other projects horizontally. Bladen referred to them as “two dancers.” Indeed, the vertical and horizontal projections, like gestures into space, remind us that modern dance influenced Bladen’s sculptures throughout his career.
Ronald Bladen, Flying Fortress (Mid Scale), 1974-1978, Painted aluminum, 90 x 264 x 12 inches, Edition 1 of 3, Courtesy of Loretta Howard Gallery, New York
Ronald Bladen, Host of the Ellipse (Mid Scale), 1981, Painted aluminum, 85 x 118 x 52 inches, Edition 1 of 3, Courtesy of Loretta Howard Gallery, New York