Landscapes After Ruskin: Redefining the Sublime presents in its introductory text an intriguing proposition: “In a world overwhelmed by rapid technological advances, natural disasters, and a heightened sense of anxiety, it is still possible to find unexpected beauty.” Curated by New York photographer Joel Sternfeld and drawing on works from the Hall Art Foundation in Vermont, the exhibition at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery takes as its starting point the concept of the sublime in nature popular in the 19th century.
NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy, 1932–1960 poignantly portrays life in Italy through the lens of photography before, during, and after World War II. While neorealism is associated primarily with cinematic and literary depictions of dire postwar conditions, this is the first major museum exhibition to highlight key photographers active at the time. Featuring approximately 175 photographs by over 60 Italian artists, NeoRealismo pairs them with the original publications in which they circulated—illustrated magazines, photobooks, and exhibition catalogues. On view at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery from September 6 through December 8, 2018, the show also includes film excerpts by such notable directors as Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and Luchino Visconti, alongside related movie posters.
Monet’s paintings of wealthy Parisians frolicking in the French suburb of Argenteuil became interesting to me as something more than very pretty objects when I learned about their ideological underpinnings—how Monet carefully excised the visible effects of rapid industrialization from his compositions, presenting his own version of the kind of idyllic landscape that no longer existed. Landscapes After Ruskin: Redefining the Sublime, the current exhibition at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, pulls a similar trick by reminding us that while depicting landscapes may seem straightforward, event quaint at times, they are subject to the same manipulation and subjectivity as any kind of art, even if they’re painted en plein air.
When 19th-century painters such as JMW Turner wanted to grapple with the sublime — which they did with obsessive regularity — they turned to nature’s terrors. Art offered Alpine storms, raging whitecaps, floods and earthquakes, all of which viewers could observe in the comfort of the gallery. Just as horror films stoke fear and also provide solace (that can’t happen to me!), the artistic sublime provoked a frisson of vicarious suffering.
The Victorian-era art critic and social activist John Ruskin argued that an artist's principal goal should be "truth to nature" - that all great art should depict the natural world as humanity experiences it. He believed that landscapes should capture not only the beauty of nature but also its threat and terror in order to render an authentic representation of the sublime, evoking feelings of awe and human insignificance. And by speaking out against industrial pollution in the 19th century, Ruskin effectively became one of Europe's first environmentalists.
Though celebrated in Algeria, France and the Middle East, Baya (as she chose to be known) has yet to gain greater international recognition. Perhaps her background or initial association with mid-century luminaries such as Pablo Picasso, Andre Breton and Jean DuBuffet discouraged broader or more dedicated consideration of her work. A new exhibition redresses this oversight. Baya: Woman of Algiers – on view at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, January through March – is the first solo show of Baya’s art in North America. Comprising 22 gouache paintings from her 1947 Paris debut, it was curated by the French American scholar Natasha Boas, who recasts Baya’s legacy within critical, contemporary, feminist contexts.
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Mark Mothersbaugh: Music for Six-Sided Keyboard Performance on May 4 at Skirball. Click here for more info.
“Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965” featured in the New York Times