Church & Rothko: Sublime
“Church & Rothko: Sublime,” on view at Mnuchin Gallery, collapses time and space to explore the affective relationship between the Hudson River School landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church and the Color Field artist Mark Rothko, who lived a century apart. Featuring seventeen canvases by Church and ten by Rothko, the experience of the exhibition is of swinging back and forth on a pendulum—but the connections between the two give shape to something fundamental. Dating back to the first century AD, the idea of the sublime reached its apex in the aesthetic writings of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. In Church’s time, sublimity was to be found largely in nature; in Rothko’s, in the devastation of World War II and the harnessing of nuclear power. In both artists, the qualities of the sublime—greatness of dimension, obscurity, and the representation, paradoxically, of boundlessness—awe anew.
Mark Rothko, Browns and Blacks in Reds, 1957. Oil on canvas, 91 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Mnuchin Gallery, New York. Photography by Tom Powel Imaging.