New York

Ronald Bladen

Fischbach Gallery

Ronald Bladen’s new piece is a vast, deeply curving wall which fills out the large exhibition space of the Fischbach Gallery. Constructed out of plywood and painted a matte white and black, there is nothing especially odd about it except the grandiosity of its scale and certain of its proportions. The outer wall, the black one, falls perpendicular to the floor while the interior wall slopes inward and upward so that the top collar is thinner than the bottom one. Well, there is no “bottom,” really, as the work has been constructed to rest on a barely visible inner scaffolding which lifts the structure slightly off the floor, thereby imparting a sense of lightness to the whole affair as well as inducing a certain propensity for vertiginousness in the piece. (Moreover, the black shadow exaggerates the whiteness of the inner curved wall.) This giddiness is especially sensible close in on the inner curved wall. It duplicates something of what happens beside the railings of the Guggenheim Museum ramp, but here, the experience is even more intense as the wall rises high over the spectator’s head—whereas, at the Guggenheim one can at least grab onto the ledge even as one feels it fall away.

The wall seems to me to be little more than this—a somewhat bothersome and dull exercise, perhaps more admirable for its ambitiousness than for any emotional idea of pertinence. Such sculptural aspirations as evinced by this Bladen once seemed important. Bladen, with Tony Smith, loomed like a dominant figure.

I suppose that what I am suggesting is this: that purely as a responder, a muscle upon which certain impulses play and an intelligence which collates these impulses into certain stylistic configurations, I own to holding that geometrical monumentalism today seems staggeringly uninteresting and I wonder why Bladen persists in the mode. It is possible that I misconstrue the Bladen completely, and that instead of being an unwanted echo of some second-string hermetist like Robert Mangold, the present work may have taken a bold option, for it is, in my awareness of Bladen’s career, the first monumentally scaled, curved surface he has produced. Perhaps then, in this light, this closed and ungiving work may be a big step indeed within the evolution of a style by which the critical aptitude can only at present be puzzled.

––Robert Pincus-Witten