Striving toward the heady heights of the sublime, Susanna Dadd's landscapes continue a tradition of so-called "spiritual" inquiry into nature that began with the 19th-Century Romantics.
By drawing out abstract qualities of such obvious sources as Friedrich and Turner and alluding to the landscape possibilities in the archetypal purism of Rothko, Dadd attempts to set up an ambiguous dialectic that muddies the distinction between representation and mere mark-making. Paint, light and color thus become part of a larger framework through which the viewer can extract or read in the desired emotional and intuitive response.
However, given Post-Modernism's facility for revealing visual language as a network of rhetorical devices, it is now impossible to take any notion of the sublime at face value. In this case, we are restricted not only by Dadd's overt appropriation of historical sources, but also her allusions to simulation, whereby the conceptual idea of Romanticism predominates over its practice . Dadd reinforces this reading by painting in a broad, almost sketchy style that evokes the artificiality of Hollywood scenery. Transcendence thus becomes little more than a theatrical effect. It makes a lot of noise in order to evoke the power of the gods, but has little relevance outside the confines of the painterly "stage." The results are a form of Romanticism in parentheses. Take away the brackets, you are left with nothing but artificial bluster. (Michael Kohn, 313 N. Robertson Blvd., to Nov. 1.)