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.