by Phillis Ideal
Ronald Bladen was making abstract painting and an important voice in the New York School before creating his well-know minimal sculpture. Though the sculptures are precise and measured and the paintings, organic and process oriented, the two bodies of work have in common that the images linger in one’s mind like a mirage in the desert. These packed, troweled, impastoed paintings of rich sandy colors are transformative; they initiate an experience in the viewer. When looking at Space Landscape, c.1956-59, I feel I am standing on earthy pigments in a timeless landscape, then soaring over it and looking down at shades and shapes of a distant topography of rivulets, scrubs and rocks. In his series of paintings White, Blue, Green and Red, c.1960-61, the world becomes a rough frontal map zeroing in on a few islands or trails showing me the way to someplace in myself that has always been there.
Bladen never loses sight of this basic intuition that reflects the history of the exploration in art. This is sophisticated work that transcends formal concerns. It has the connectedness of a child making a sand castle, intuitively knowing how large to make the rooms, then deciding to change the scale, flattening the wall and adding sand of a different shade so that all is left of the boundaries is a shift in color. He repeatedly simplifies the shape but keeps the emotional complexity that gives the viewer a point of entrance into the spirit of the work.
Bladen’s approach to painting is honest, direct, deliberate and convincing. It is total commitment. These abstract paintings share ground with early man as well as looking relevant today.