Guns. Waves. Mushroom clouds. And now, celestial bodies: planets, stars and nebulae. These are the subjects of Robert Longo’s
continued mining of the sublime. Though his large-scale charcoal drawings on paper have become familiar – signature, even – the
immensity of the work and their exacting facility never fail to seduce, which is no doubt a necessary part of Longo’s art. As with
his previous show at Metro Pictures, which showcased magnifi cent nuclear explosions rendered in velvety black and the brilliant,
seemingly impossible white of unmarked paper, seduction is integral to the discomfort. One stands in awe in front of these images,
and then, slowly at fi rst, but with fair acceleration, that once-unadulterated aesthetic enjoyment runs up against the Idea: here we
have the weed of science, physical forces propagating where they were never meant to, a sun on the surface of the earth.
This fi ts Edmund Burke’s equation for the sublime quite nicely: beauty + dread. Kant, however, required further specifi city.
Knowing we are safe from such forces, that we occupy a position at a remove from any of their direct e ects, allows for an experience
of the ‘dynamical sublime’. Recognising, in our capacity to reason, that we surpass our own ability to imagine o ers up an experience
of the ‘mathematical sublime’.. . .