Church & Rothko: Sublime

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Open: By Appointment

45 East 78 Street, NY 10075, New York, USA
Open: By Appointment


Church & Rothko: Sublime

New York

Church & Rothko: Sublime
to Sat 13 Mar 2021
By Appointment

Mnuchin Gallery presents Church & Rothko: Sublime, which explores for the first time the aesthetic and conceptual similarities between Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) and Mark Rothko (1903-1970).

Although separated by nearly a century, both Church and Rothko interrogated the deeply sensorial power of their media, tapping into and articulating contemporary philosophies of the natural and metaphysical sublime. The exploration of the sublime in art and literature began in earnest after the 1757 publication of Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Understanding the sublime to be the cause of the strongest emotions an individual is capable of feeling, artists since the eighteenth century have used this notion as a tool through which to express the indescribable sights and thoughts, both pleasurable and painful, of the human experience.

Frederic Edwin Church, one of the preeminent landscape painters of the nineteenth century and a key figure of the Hudson River School, found the sublime within the rapidly changing landscapes of the Americas. Through his exquisite brushwork and bold palette, in addition to his choice of such natural wonders as Niagara Falls and the volcano Cotopaxi as subjects, Church’s oeuvre deftly highlights the complex relationship between man and the natural world.

Later, in the middle of the twentieth century, investigations of the sublime in art took on new life in the abstract canvases of Mark Rothko. Rothko, alongside fellow painters such as Barnett Newman, understood the sublime to be something that inherently existed within oneself. Thus freed from the restrictions of the exterior world, Rothko’s vast voids of color create shapeless infinities that open up a space for viewers to experience those emotions that evade easy definition.

Paired together, the dialogue between these two distinctly American artists uniquely surveys how the conceptual application of the sublime has been central to the aesthetic language of artists over the last two centuries.

Curated in collaboration with Michael Altman and Christopher Rothko, Church & Rothko: Sublime comprises important paintings from the height of each artist’s respective careers, including an oil study for Church’s seminal painting Cotopaxi (1862, Detroit Institute of Arts), and pristine examples of Rothko’s revered mature paintings. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored by Dr. John C. Wilmerding.

all images © the gallery and the artist(s)

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