I bring the topic because of our maladie du sublime (at miami.bourbaki we call sublimity).
Searching for clues, I find this article by artist Julian Bell at tate.org,
Bells agrees that the sublime has been abused: "References to it have come from so many angles that it is in danger of losing any coherent meaning ... How did we arrive at this state of affairs?" Next, Bell threads the historic background with the usual suspects: Burke, Kant. Then he jumps to 1948 and Barnett Newman. Bell clarifies that he's not engaging critical discourse. He rather shows his approach to the sublime:
Julian Bell, Darvaza, 2010, (8 foot wide)
Next, he explores the settecento pictoric tradition:
Joseph Wright of Derby, Vesuvius in Eruption, 1776
A peculiar paragraph follows:
Once you approach the canvas of my Darvaza, your eyes are going to need to look far to the left or right to find any rim to clutch at, let alone a stable foothold. So ran my working idea. And then, affecting it from an early stage, there was an awareness that I was due to exhibit in a largish public gallery. I needed a painting that would make a firm, strong impact on anyone who entered the room, before they turned to other works of mine with other agendas. Showmanship, in other words, gets inextricably bound up with an artist’s desire to deliver the sublime.Evolution (rather, involution of the sublime).
1- Serra's The Matter of Time, (the art in "public" places sublime)
Richard Serra, The matter of Time, 2005
Bell's own take:
Walking into those vessels, you submit to the mute yet muscular cliffs of raw metal as if to geological limitations constraining your movement. You are brought up close to – right into, in fact – a great and daunting, continually unfolding otherness.2- The pop/kitsch sublime (which according to Bell, "seeks to ingratiate, modulating the sublimity to their scale proposes").
Is Koons' pup "sublime" of just plain big?3- The psychedelic solipsistic sublime: Mike Kelly. Here we need Kelly's own digression:
... psychedelia was sublime because in psychedelia, your worldview fell apart. That was a sublime revelation, that was my youth, and that was my notion of beauty. And that was a kind of cataclysmic sublime. It was very interiorized, it wasn’t about a metaphysical outside; it was about your own consciousness. That’s my starting point of the sublime.4- Luc Tuyman's socalled "dissapointed sublime" (indeed).
Tuyman Still Life, 2002, 347-500 cm
An excerpt of the curator's tuymantized sublimity:
The sheer scale makes the contemplation of this painting almost impossible: a vast canvas representing an absolute nothingness. Luc Tuymans chose the subject of still life precisely because it was utterly unremarkable; a generic ‘brand’ of ‘object’ rendered to immense scale; it is banality expanded to the extreme. The simplicity of Luc Tuymans’s composition alludes to a pure and uninterrupted world order; the ephemeral light, with which the canvas seems to glow, places it as an epic masterpiece of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation. In response to unimaginable horror, Luc Tuymans offers the sublime. A gaping magnitude of impotency, which neither words nor paintings could ever express.Do you but it?