Peter Rostovsky

Peter Rostovsky

Exhibition: Apr 29 – Jul 18, 2004

Rostovsky’s paintings modernize and complicate traditional notions of artistic representations of the sublime.

In Epiphany Model 4: The Meteor Shower (2004) an oval canvas depicts the night sky of a mountainous valley lit by streaking meteors. Observing the scene are two figures dwarfed by the grandeur. Yet Rostovsky, in an ironic update of the German Romantic tradition, literally removes the viewers from the scene. He sculpts a pair of hikers on a rocky perch which rests on a pedestal two feet from the painting. Rostovsky’s figures confront nature and quite literally culture, as they, like us, are contemplating a painting.

In Eclipse (2004), the largest work in the exhibition, wispy flames peek out from behind a darkened moon, presenting a monumental ode to the natural phenomenon we, in fact, would never be able to view with such clarity.

Four canvases feature isolated swimmers in rippling expanses of blue water—all part of a recent series inspired by a trip to Nice, France. In Large Swimmers (2004) five figures paddle together, yet rather than engage with one another as one might expect, their gaze is serious and detached—like that of the figures in Epiphany Model. Staring out at the infinite ocean, they commune with nature just as nature seems to consume them.

With Rubik’s Cube (2004) Rostovsky approaches the popular game with the same reverence he applies to the mountains, the stars, and the ocean. The cube’s familiar squares of color loom large against a hushed, hazy-white background. Such treatment moves the iconic puzzle from the realm of the banal to that of the sublime and challenges the assumed distinction between the two.

Peter Rostovsky


Peter Rostovsky

New York, New York, USA

Lush and realistic, Peter Rostovsky’s canvases operate between the realms of pure painterly experience and a mediated, ironic distance. Painted from digital and composite photographs, his compositions depict images of the sublime to the banal, questioning at which point one might become the other.
In many of his works Rostovsky details a breadth of nature the naked eye could not possibly take in. Transport Series; Star Trek I (2000) features a star-studded galaxy exploding with colorful hot spots and points of light. The painting is an awe-inspiring portrayal of the universe, yet, simultaneously its title gestures toward a quotidian element of life that seems to lie at the other end of the spectrum.
At times Rostovsky works in the opposite direction: he elevates the ordinary. In Carrie (2002) blood drips down the face of the wide-eyed woman from the cult classic. By placing this pop culture image in the rarefied context of visual art, Rostovsky suggests such familiar markers of our times might soon become the markers of history.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1970, Peter Rostovsky moved to the United States in 1980. He received a BA and BFA from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY in 1995. He participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York, NY the following year. He has had solo exhibitions at The Project, New York, NY (2004); Galleria Maze, Turin, Italy (2002); and James Harris Gallery, Seattle, WA (2001). He was included in the 2003 Prague Biennale, Czech Republic; and in exhibitions at SMAK, Ghent, Belgium (2001) and White Columns, New York, NY (1999).

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