this diebenkorn fits rosenberg's "sublime," which "wouldn't exactly screw up your maid's room"
Web-browsing through the art bubble I find the following excerpt, written by a Meredith Rosenberg,* who appears as "gallery director at BravinLee programs (...) a partner in BravinLee editions –hand knotted rugs, tapestries and installations by contemporary artists":
Prints are often placed at the bottom of the caste system, behind paintings and drawings, but Diebenkorn’s sublime etchings disrupt this order. I’m not saying, if I had my choice, I wouldn’t rather have a big Ocean Park painting hanging in my stupidly oversized après-ski mansion in Aspen, but this absolutely sublime softground etching from the 1980s wouldn’t exactly screw up the maid’s room either.Rosenberg drops "sublime" twice, plus her adverbial use of "absolutely" in the last sentence, a sort of steroidal trope to emphasize her own preferences. Without doubt, she means the prints are more than beautiful (the more tired buzzword of the art lexicon).
But her panegyric makes you wonder.
Oddly, Rosenberg's real choice is not the Diebenkorn print, so obviously praised, but a painting she already owns (entitled Ocean Park which hangs in her "stupidly oversized mansion" after skiing expeditions in aspen). Division of labor aside here, the "absolutely sublime" ends up relegated to a maid's room. isn't this admission queer? Unless Rosenberg's hyperbole reflects a deeper valuation problem, which has become second nature amongst pseudo critics and art connoisseurs alike. We need to go back in time to find out.
In his philosophical inquiry into the sublime, Edmund Burke describes the feeling associated with the sublime as negative, antithetical to beauty. When it happens, our imagination is moved to awe, even horror. Later, Immanuel Kant shifts the emphasis to make it less psychological and more analytic, but he keeps a bit of Burke:
The sublime may be described this way: It is an object (of nature) the representation of which determines the mind to regard the elevation of nature beyond our reach as equivalent to a presentation of ideas. (CJ, 119)
|this turner painting fits the burkean sublime|
|this representation of planetary cataclysm fits the kantian sublime|
(...) the event of a passion, of a possibility for which the mind will not have been prepared, which will have unsettled it and of which it conserves only the feeling -anguish and jubilation of- an obscure debt. (ti, 141)What is this "obscure debt"? For Lyotard, the political & ethical of 20th century horrors. ***
|thousands of victims of pol pot's kmer rouge fit the lyotardian sublime|
In a perverse sense Rosenberg's abuse of "sublime" proves that Lyotard is right: the term has fulfilled its role of representing the unrepresentable, only now as cipher for the inadequacy of any representation. How come?
When normative differences disappear between beautiful and non-beautiful, high and low, good and bad, art has to be expressed as a sort of impossibility of representation. That is to say, now that anything is representable, we have superfluously turned "sublime" into a sublime "abuse," which has become for some time now the very essence of art.
* Here one finds several articles Rosenberg has written. **Lyotard wrote these essays on the sublime through the 1980's. As this and this proves, his ideas were influential in art circles throughout the early 2000's. *** In particular, the holocaust. Lyotard is influenced by Adorno's negative dialectics. Readers of Lyotard extend this "differend" to the representation of late-20th century horrors. Books cited for this post: Kant's Critique of Judgment and J. François Lyotard's The Inhuman.