Upon opening the door to Richard Höglund's "Hysterical, Sublime..." show at Gallery Diet on Friday, our first reaction was to blink. The interior is so brightly and glaringly white and pristine that it hurts for just a moment until your eyes adjust. At first, the white overpowers everything. Then you see Höglund's four pieces of art in the main room.
Paris-based Höglund takes us on a journey into the sublime experience. By definition, the sublime is characterized by its quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic. It refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of measurement or imitation. How to capture the sublime in art? Höglund does so by presenting photographs of nature and repetitive drawings of hash tags, the infinite unit, or stream of consciousness writing representing the infinite.
"The sublime has inherently within it a notion of imminent danger or death," Höglund says. "Something beautiful is something that you can appreciate aesthetically but doesn't threaten you in any way, whereas something that is sublime is extraordinarily beautiful, but also has the paradox of making you feel small in front of it because it is this infinite and profound experience, but then it makes you not only feel small but also perhaps crushable. You are aware of your mortality."
The artist confronts one's unawareness of; mortality via his repetitive
drawings. Notions of the infinite and paradox are explored in his panel
pieces, which are, according to the artist, about "taking internal
ruminations and exteriorizing it." The diptychs, on the other hand, are "about taking some exterior affect and internalizing it."
"We exist in the world, and we react to it, and we also
have our entire past within us, our knowledge, that follows us around as
we travel the world," he explains. "So we carry within us our own world that we project
into the world that we are experiencing."
"Anzeihen/ Abstossen," and "Feldweg," there is no clear focal point.
The graphite drawings and scribbles appear incoherent and random. Höglund's art requires effort. He wants you to engage in his work. "I don't give you really anything to grab on to," he says. "You kind
of have to invent this sense and meaning in the work for yourself." Höglund asks his audience to go beyond the aesthetic and make a
conscious decision to create meaning and value, therefore mimicking the
process the artist himself had to go through to create it without the
confines of intentional fallacy.
The second room at Gallery Diet
continues the journey into the sublime with a central video
installation and more pieces. Language plays an integral role in the
work, and Höglund mixes English, French, and German freely. The text on
the video is a wildly misspelled English translation of Sebastian
Brant's "Das Narrenschiff."
Iceland's capital Reykjavik was an
important stop in Höglund's quest to experience the sublime. The
videos and photos were shot and taken on an island in the Reykjavik
harbor, where natural beauty and extreme, possibly deadly weather
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changes are sublime in their own way. Yet when you turn around, the modern capital is
right there, not so far removed after all.
Richard Höglund's "Hysterical, Sublime..." shows at Gallery Diet until February 11th, 2012.