Blossoming, Decaying, Evolving, Remembering, Collaborating: Zachari Logan and Ross Bleckner at Wave Hill
Jul 13, 2021
It was a warm early summer afternoon when I headed to the 2021 Spring Gala at the historical Wave Hill located in the Bronx in New York City. Even though I myself live in the Bronx, I had never visited this picturesque New York location. So, when I found out that the opening for the anticipated exhibition The Shadow of the Sun: Ross Bleckner and Zachari Logan, curated by Wayne Baerwaldt, Jennifer McGregor and Leah Taylor, would be opening during the Wave Hill annual gala, I was excited to say the least (thank you again Gabriel and Zachari!).
On my taxi drive over I marveled at the upscale neighborhood I was in. This was not the Bronx I was familiar with. After arriving I was greeted immediately by beautiful nature, a huge well-manicured lawn, trails leading in different directions, flowers, and in view was the Glyndor House, one of two historic buildings at Wave Hill. One could not hope for a better setting for the opening of the New York-based painter Ross Bleckner and Canadian artist Zachari Logan's two-person exhibition, which is on view through Aug 15, 2021.
Logan and Bleckner may at first seem like an odd pair to exhibit together. Bleckner is known for his works filled with swaths of color, with shapes throughout the chaos, such as with his large-scale painting, Untitled, 2010. Branches of composed colors coming out the curtain of white, are eerie and beautifully haunting. In Untitled, 2018, an intense black slowly fades into cloud white with bursts of red floral shapes coming out of a fog, like when you are trying to sharpen your focus on the haze of memory. Bleckner’s work reflects his experiences growing up and becoming an adult in a fast-changing 20th-century world. Words feel inadequate to describe experiences, symbols, and images that had meaning become pointless. Especially when trying to comprehend the staggering loss the queer community is continuing to feel.
Logan on the other hand, younger than Bleckner, draws monumental-scaled works inspired by nature and identity in various mediums. By using his own body as a reference and subject he melds for the viewer the beautiful queerness that is within nature. Such as with Bouquet, from Enigmas..., 2019, ceramic uncircumcised spent penis with its seed made from flowers lying as a halo reminding us of the source of ‘life’. Logan’s works are tender and full of nostalgia; sweet and filled with memories. He contemplates his own body and how it changes and evolves over time, in Oval Ditch with Artist’s Hair (2008-2019) Remembrance of past, and passing time, for Proust, 2019, Logan cut his once long mane and caringly braided his chopped hair, framing it forever protectivity by ceramic foliage. It’s the works where his body as the subject is transformed from the literal to the metaphorical that draw me back again to look. The site-specific work by Logan, A Nomenclature (from Monument Series), 2021, of leaves and branches drawn delicately in graphite on the walls, reminding the viewer of the temporal beauty of this work, just like the nature it is imitating.
Their works may seem unrelated to the shapes they create. Yet it’s the intent and emotion behind their works, the grappling of identity, memory, queerness, and grief that they make their subject that brings them together. Their collaborative works are the combination of two sensibilities and styles working in perfect harmony. The obituary works by Bleckner were created through lithographic printing techniques, then embellished with Logan’s delicate additions, the solid black line blacking out the date, making the deaths appear from any moment in time. Logan then adds signature foliage, a reminder that even in death there is hope for rebirth in Collaborative Series (The New York Times Obituaries 2), 2018. The collaborative act adds another layer to their work, welcoming the next generation of queers to continue to explore their legacy. A legacy of history that cannot be forgotten, must be passed down and remembered because the ones that could tell that history are almost all gone due to the AIDS Epidemic and now through death from age. This cross-generational collaboration between Bleckner and Logan, that share history and experiences, is an inspiration for other queer artists to follow in their footsteps, to keep queer art history alive.
Logan and Bleckner exemplify the unique beauty of queer intergenerational friendships, the education of one’s history is passed down to another. Their collaborative works show the ever-evolving understanding of queerness, identity, and how we understand grief and death. It is fascinating to witness this time of collaboration; it feels cathartic and perfect. Heavy with memories, their works in unison force the viewer to pause and experience the beauty of nature, birth, growth, death, and the continuation of life.