featured gallery for March 2008

The Sublime Order

The idea that there is an underlying logic to our world, something we can figure out, something solid and secure, is compelling, comforting. When faced with the audacity of our natural world's full force, we are humbled. The pieces in this Web gallery capture and touch upon this in various ways; from traditional landscape photographs to sculptures and collages whose repetition harkens those found in nature to moments that culminate in sublime rapture. Nine artists have been included in this Web gallery, with two artworks by each artist.

The first few pieces speak of the magnificence of the sublime nature image both on its own and paired with the human form. Robert Flack's photograph "Untitled (From Love Mind)" shows the universe projected on the portrait of a man, eyes closed, whose face becomes a screen for the phenomenal image of the universe. By conflating these two spaces it is as much a portrait of this man as of the psychological space he reflects. Donna Haggerty's "Sunset" is a straightforward shot of just that, an iconic image still compelling in its simple power. The light recedes into the darkness as reflections of the sun off the wave crests project out towards the viewer. The Felix Gonzalez-Torres piece "Untitled (North)" uses simple lights hung in rows from the ceiling, in a waterfall-like form, but it allows viewers to enter a landscape on their own scale within the gallery. In Elliott Linwood's "Outbreak (Detail)," the naked figure is sprawled out against the vastness of a crater, an image of extreme fragility and haunting finality. The human body is but a speck on the edge of this immense natural world.

The next few pieces suggest the landscape of social spaces and events such as in Stephen Andrews' "Demo #3." In this piece the mass of people and signs sink into abstraction as they become of a sea of faces afloat with vacant white forms. In Phillip Calkins' "Labor Day," the image of the flag billows hauntingly against a vacant poolside. Its iconic meaning is stripped down into black and white lines looming overhead. A typical summer weekend with bodies crowding the beach is the subject of Luis Carle's "Summer Storm -- Brighton Beach, N.Y.," but the mass of people is barely discernable as the sky above opens up in a spectacular display of power. A fleeting vacation moment is captured in the tender Polaroid transfer "Ziya in Spain" by Bradley Johnson, a shadowy glimpse of a friend beyond the arc of the camping tent.

In the last set of works in this Web gallery, the natural image breaks down to emphasize the underlying forms, lines and patterns found in nature. In Calkins', "Arizona" the rock formation is approached head-on and becomes a beautiful abstract arrangement of lines, striations, forms and repetition. A similar abstraction occurs in the black and white image of Haggerty's "Stepping Stones." Gonzalez-Torres' "Untitled" uses a sublime image of the ocean reproduced to become a stack of images, the repetition of nature recontextualized into a take-away form. Scott Burton's "The Hectapod Table" pares down lines and planes found in nature to the bare minimum and rendered in nickel-plated steel. Finally, in "Caminos" and "Untitled (From Love Mind)" the human image is broken up or covered by geometric, repeating forms, reminiscent of the logical structures found in a fractal, a flower head or a nautilus shell.