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  • Writer's pictureDavid Eichholtz

Press Release - Isaac Aden "The Numinous Sublime" - Part ll


The Numinous Sublime

Part ll

September 5 – October 7, 2023

Artist Reception:

Thursday, September 7, 2023 from 5:00 to 8:00 PM


526 West 26th Street, Suite 209

David Richard Gallery is please to present Isaac Aden: The Numinous Sublime, a two-part solo exhibition of his most recent monumental paintings. The exhibitions feature seventeen oil paintings, measuring 12 x 27 ft., 12 x 9 ft., 14 x 6 ft. and 5 x 4 ft. These seminal paintings are part of Aden’s series of Tonal Paintings a body of work developed over the past eight years. Presented in two parts, the presentations demonstrate the ineffable breadth of Aden’s painting practice with the first section presenting paintings that glow and are decidedly warmer in chroma. Aden’s paintings trace their genealogy from Claude, European Romantic Painting, and Corfield, to the Contemporary Art of today. The second part, opening September 5th, contends with the somber realties frequently faced by the human condition and specifically recalls Rothko’s final masterpiece the Rothko Chapel.

At first glance the paintings evoke minimalism because they read as monolithic monochromes. The works call to mind gothic proportions as they engage the cathedral like architecture of the of the space. Upon closer inspection they seem to be more akin to Color Field canvases with a vast array of subtle colors revealed. However, after a protracted period of viewing in person the paintings are revealed to be more of a type of Post Minimal Pointillism comprised of billions of miniscule dots of pure color floating together to create nebulous expanses. The paintings are made from formless layers of diffused gradients of pixelized colors which appear as ethereal and atmospheric canvases. Particularly because of their scale these paintings evoke the sublime.

The Sublime has long been a part of the aesthetic discourse which follows the evolution of landscape painting into pure abstraction. Early proponents of the commonly held viewpoints including Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant were followed by twentieth century thinkers like Robert Rosenblum who applied the term to the aesthetic gains made by some of the Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko. The dominant discourse on the sublime since the 18th century has centered around the topics of awe and terror. However there have been moments in which new ways of considering this phenomenon have developed.

For example, the American painter Worthington Whittredge described a uniquely American sublime realized in the paintings of Asher B. Durand. This sublime was one of a raw primordial untouched forest in contrast to the industrial deforestation occurring in Europe.

The concept of Numinous Sublime was introduced by the metaphysical theologian Rudolf Otto, he focused less on a sublime of terror and more on an uplifting one that was spiritual in nature. Rothko’s last body of work The Rothko Chapel, consist of fourteen “Black” paintings permanently displayed in an interfaith sanctuary. Rothko’s paintings seem to key into the Numinous Sublime, not necessarily in a religious sense, but in a wholly personal and meditative spiritual experience. Aden’s paintings address the same phenomenological and emotional experience in relation to the viewer and the sublime. The canvases consume the periphery of the viewer, and the effect of the gradual gradient creates a boundless field. This lack of observable form doesn’t allow the viewer to latch on to a specific signifier or object in the painting. The result of this is to reflect the viewing back on to the audience creating a highly subjective and personal experience.

Seeing the works in person creates the space essential to realize them and rewards the viewer. We welcome you to visit our galleries in person or to learn more about this exhibition and the other artists we represent through the many videos, writings, photographs and catalogs available on our website.

About Isaac Aden:

Isaac Aden is an artist and curator. His work engages the arc of history through the lenses of the human condition. Aden’s Post-Medium practice has centered its primary research in the area of New Institutionalism. Aden makes bodies of work often tangentially related and even visually disparate with no desire to ascribe an aesthetic conclusion. In this way the practice becomes absorbent and generative.

Aden has exhibited nationally and internationally, including: dOCUMENTA 13, MassMOCA, The Fedricianum, White Box, Kassel Werkstadt, David Richard Gallery, Gallerie Rasch, Ulrike Petschel Gallerie, Ethan Cohen Fine Art, SPRING/BREAK, Art Miami, Contemporary Istanbul, VOLTA Basel, Sotheby’s, The Jerome A. Cohen And Joan Lebold Cohen Center for Art. The Bertha and Karl Luebsdorf Gallery, The International Gallery of Contemporary Art, The Parthenon Museum, The New York Public Library, and The World Trade Center.

Aden is on the board of White Box and formerly the Senior Curator at the Jerome A Cohen and Joan Lebold Cohen Center for Visual Arts. He was named the Chief Curator of four art fairs including the AD ART Show at Sotheby’s and the World Trade Center, New York and the Accessible Art Fair. As part of this he developed and executed the first city wide digital art fair, partnering with corporate sponsors including Systech Systems and NBC Universal. Over 13 million people viewed the fair. He has curated over twenty exhibitions, including Jeffrey Hargrave, Escape Route, at the Bronx Museum. He has been awarded Fellowships from the Kossak Foundation, Creative Capital, The New York Foundation for the Arts and the United States State Department. He is currently represented by: Gallerie Rasch in Germany, Marat Guelman in Russia and the Balkans, and David Richard Gallery the Americas.

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