Webster's defines beautiful as “exciting aesthetic pleasure and generally pleasing: excellent. Beauty’s rather slippery definition allows for two distinct and possibly conflicting interpretations, only one of which is useful in discussing art. What is pleasing or harmonious in nature is just that; as a decidedly human dimension, the term beautiful can only be an attributed of art. Far from being a trivial concern, contemplation of the beautiful, as G.E Moore argues in his Principia Ethica, is along with human relationships, the greatest, or perhaps the only human good.
Subsequent to Edmund Burke's establishment of the sublime as the counter to the beautiful, beauty's validity has been subject to severe criticism and questionable status in aesthetic matters. Beauty, considered as pleasant or harmonious, has been in question as a desirable quality in art since Romanticism. Indeed, modernists eschewed “the beautiful” as superfluous and misleading as an aesthetic concern. What may be called “the beautiful” has been enjoying a restoration of reputation for some time now, and a deeper understanding of the role of beauty is emerging.
The latest show at Drawing Rooms in Jersey City, “Bold and Beautiful”, is testament to the validity of its reevaluation. Irony seems to have been banished in favor of a less distanced and more earnest engagement with beauty on the part of the artists in this show to varying degrees.
The artists are not aligned with any particular ideology, approach their work from different perspectives and engage with the history of their prospective mediums accordingly. Traditional techniques coexist with radical approaches without unnecessary friction. This is a show that allows artists to be who they are and cleverness is of less value than sincerity.
Ben Pranger, Tree of Caves, 2015, Papier--Mâché, Wood and Acrylic, 43 x 32 x 25
Jill Scipione, Undoing History, Palm Sunday, Male, Pencil on Paper, 96 x 59
David French, Madame LeBlanc, 2014, Oil and Gold Powder on Herringbone Twill Linen, 82 x 76
Thomas Lendvai, 2017
Cecile Chong, In A Different Light, 2011, Encaustic, 50 x 54
Kathy Cantwell, The Hidden Life Of Stripes 12, 2016, Encaustic, 24 x 36
Andra Samelson, Rhetoric for an Apparition, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 30
Patricia Fabricant, WSP 012017, 2017, Woven Gouache, 24 x 18
Anne Trauben, Gap Between The Puddles, 2017, Oil Pastel on Paper, 56 x 44
The divergent ideas of what might comprise beauty provide a lively and well considered viewing experience. One can easily imagine each of these artists extending their artistic vision well beyond the limits of this show.
Bold and Beautiful, 3/10/17 - 4/8/17, at Drawing Rooms features installation, painting, sculpture and drawing by Ben Pranger, David French, Jill Scipione, Thomas Lendvai, Cecile Chong, Andra Samelson, Patricia Fabricant and Anne Trauben. The exhibit is curated by Anne Trauben.