Regina-based artist Zachari Logan (left) and New York painter Ross Bleckner pose for a photo at the new exhibition, The Shadow of the Sun. (Photo by Chris Putnam)

'It's a total dream': Award-winning U of S alumnus showcases work alongside famed New York painter

The work of two acclaimed artists with different, but linked, representations of nature and transcendence is now on view as part of a new two-person exhibition at the College Art Galleries.

Entitled The Shadow of the Sun, the show features pieces by University of Saskatchewan alumnus Zachari Logan, who is currently based in Regina, and renowned New York painter Ross Bleckner, who studied at New York University and the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif.

While the artists’ styles differ esthetically, there are grounding qualities in their work, such as a focus on flora and fauna and on conceptual issues of life and love, death and decay, visibility and invisibility and sexuality and selfhood.

Logan (BFA’05, MFA’09), who was named one of the College of Arts and Science’s Alumni of Influence in 2015, said “it’s a huge honour” to have his work showcased at his alma mater.

“It also brings back a lot of lovely memories about coming and seeing shows here at the College Galleries of artists that I was learning about in school and getting to meet them, and also other faculty members who I really admire,” he said.

Logan speaks fondly of people he has studied with at the U of S, particularly Alison Norlen, a professor of painting and drawing in the college’s Department of Art and Art History. He recalls a “brilliant" show Norlen previously had in the same gallery space.

“She’s a huge, huge influence on my practice, for sure,” he said.  

Bleckner and Logan met in New York, where Logan has been represented by several different galleries since 2009 and has completed several residencies. The artists developed a friendship when Logan invited Bleckner to be part of a group show he was curating. They have since had a two-person exhibition at Paul Petro Contemporary Art in Toronto prior to the new show at the College Art Galleries, which opened on Oct. 5.

Logan said “it’s a total dream” to be showing his work alongside Bleckner, whom he describes as “one of his art gods.”

“We’re a generation apart, and I was very influenced by Ross’ work in my schooling. It also just seems really serendipitous, or strange, because it was Alison Norlen who introduced me to Ross’ work. I also believe that when Alison was at Yale she had a studio visit and interactions with Ross—this was back in the day, too. It feels very organic that it worked out that way, just due to circumstance.”

Bleckner, who is well-known for his large-scale paintings, has been shown in numerous high-profile galleries, including a mid-career solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1994. He has received worldwide critical attention since the 1980s, and is known for his interest in mortality, change and loss and addressing the subject of AIDS.

Since graduating from the U of S, Logan has maintained a studio practice focusing on drawing, painting, ceramics and installation. His work can be found in public and private collections throughout the world, including Remai Modern, National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (NYC), among others. He currently teaches full time at the University of Regina.

Logan described his current exhibition with Bleckner as a conversation between friends, to which Bleckner replied: “I think that’s a good description.”

“I love Zachari’s work,” said Bleckner, specifically pointing out the rendering and the mood of Logan’s art.

“Mood is a good word,” added Logan. “I feel like we share a mood, and melancholy, maybe, in our imagery.”

Bleckner said his art is not “activist in an overt way,” but added that “I feel like a straight man would not be making the work I make—and I also think that’s true of (Logan), as well.” Logan noted his work contains references to sexuality and same-sex relationships, such as two carnations in a fountain sculpture representing French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud and Irish writer Oscar Wilde.

When asked about a unifying theme for the show, Logan said the body is “ever present” in his work.

“It’s not literally there, but it’s figuratively there,” he said.

“A lot of these paintings, they’re not about the body, necessarily, but the process of making the work is about wiping things away and things that used to be there but just are kind of like fragments or shadows or pieces of what were,” Bleckner added, noting his artistic process is reductive. “I kind of put things on and take them off a lot.”

The exhibition is co-curated by Wayne Baerwaldt and Leah Taylor, a U of S alumna who studied with Logan and earned her Bachelor Fine Arts degree in 2004. When asked how she predicts viewers will respond to the new exhibition, Taylor noted that Logan’s skill level and the incredible detail in his drawings “will often stop viewers in their tracks.” She also noted Bleckner’s paint quality and the sheer scale at which he paints.

“I think the work will have a pretty profound impact on people,” Taylor said.

A conversation with Logan and Bleckner will be held on Oct. 9 in Remai Modern’s SaskTel Theatre. Doors open at 7 pm and the conversation will begin at 8 pm. The event will also feature Norlen and New York-based art critic and curator Joseph R. Wolin.

Share this story