Updating Ruskin’s Sublime Landscape in the Age of the Anthropocene
Hyperallergic, July 2, 2018

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. For example, art critic John Ruskin saw nature as fully in charge, invoking awe or fear yet stirringly beautiful, and revealed in the paintings of  J.M.W. Turner. Including for reference an angry sea painted in Normandy by Gustave Courbet in 1869 (the Hall Collection’s “La vague” or “The Wave”), Sternfeld offered the 59 other works to demonstrate how more contemporary artists have updated the notion of the sublime in nature. Never mind that many trace the way humans are wreaking havoc on Earth, through terrorism or by provoking environmental damage. I took this exhibition as a challenge to participate in a roller-coaster ride of terror and grace, trying to find the beauty in these works.

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