The Sublime: Romantic Landscapes - The Ongoing Search for Beauty
on view March 1st - April 19th
guest curated by Daniel Brown
"The Sublime: Romantic Landscapes - The Ongoing Search for Beauty" investigates, through the work of twenty-one regional artists, artwork which "elevate(s) to a high degree of moral or spiritual purity or excellence” (Oxford English Dictionary definition of "sublime"). The word "romantic" and the word "sublime" may be used almost interchangeably, the work in this show may be considered beautiful, fantastic, pure, marvelous, utopian, and/or visionary, to use words listed as synonyms in the same dictionary. Other words used to define "romantic" include idyllic, picturesque, passionate and "pure". I particularly like the idea that romantic art includes "weather and colors and beautiful things that act differently from others".
Since we are Americans, many of our artists look back to The Hudson River School of artists, painters such as Church, Cole, Duncanson, Durand, and Bierstadt, and, in photography, Ansel Adams as references and referents in their work. The Luminists, who were associated with The Hudson River School, are also an enormous influence on the artists in "The Sublime: Romantic Landscapes". Combining these two major influences from American art history, the artists in this show interpret light and color, shape and form, and atmospherics in their landscapes, which run the gamut from the more nearly Expressionist (Bukang Kim, Lisa Molyneux, Bruce Neville), to the nearly Impressionist (Mark Daly, Paula Risch Head, Keith Klein), to the Abstract Expressionist (Valerie Shesko, Bukang Kim) to the hyperrealist (Adam Hayward), to the naturalist (Sheldon Tapley, Scott Ramming, Ray Hassard, Tim Tepe), to the more minimalist (Kevin T. Kelly, Rick Bennett), to the pointillism in Keith Klein’s work to the cubism/expressionism in the paintings of Eric Greiner and Cedric Cox, to the romantic/realist/reductivist (M. Katherine Hurley, Jens Rosenkrantz, Robert Flischel, Lisa Molyneux, Stacie Seuberling, Mark Daly, Paul Vollman). Since we've known from The Book of Ecclesiastes in The Old Testament that , to paraphrase, there's nothing new under the sun, then everything is in the interpretation.
The American land/landscape is itself Sublime. It is vast, it is gorgeous, it is awesome, it is overwhelming, it is transcendent. When the original Hudson River Valley paintersfirst saw the Hudson River Valley landscape, they saw lakes and old, mature trees, vast skies, mountains, and atmosphere; they were particularly drawn to the hues of autumn. They painted large paintings without any trace of people in them, and thought that these landscapes were representative of The Creation itself. Their work contains that same sense of awe at Nature's beauty and bounty that we see in the work of the artists in this show at Cincinnati Art Galleries. Americans were not drawn to old ruins, and that romantic European strain of romanticism, and the American Sublime tends not to the fearsome view of nature, as in the paintings of the German Casper David Freidrich. They tended more to the "realistic, sometimes idealized portrayal of nature”. They believed that "nature in the form of the American landscape was an ineffable manifestation of God".
The paintings in "The Sublime: Romantic Landscapes" have the same sensibilities, the same longings for transcendence. These living artists from our region have been searching for something spiritual in their work at least since the l980s (sometimes specifically religious). Their work represents the outward appearance of their inward journeys.
Cincinnati Art Galleries is proud to present the work of twenty-one area artists whose work specifically exhibits traits we call "The Sublime” in this large range of interpretations of the landscape (and the seascapes we've also included). The work continues a long and distinguished tradition of the Romantic in art (both Eastern and Western, we see combinations of those cultures' paintings in the works of Shesko, Kim, Molyneux, Rosenkrantz, Hurley and Head), and are thus an antidote to the excessive materialism rampant in our culture. The longing for the spiritual is most manifest in the search for The Sublime, which we proudly present in the work of these twenty-one artists.
------Daniel Brown, Guest Curator