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Meme: Romanticism

EFA Project Space
323 West 39th Street, 2nd Floor, 212-563-5855
Hell's Kitchen
February 16 - March 31, 2007
Reception: Friday, February 16, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

“I want to compete with the movies”

Meme: Romanticism examines five artists’ cinematic productions that utilize technological aesthetics, cultural symbolism, historic compositions, and narratives to expose the conceptual underpinning of Romanticism. The exhibition will be set up like a theater, with viewing times allocated by length of the video. The room will have a sound system and projection with seating for the viewer’s comfort, so they may enjoy the works. The waiting area will be set up as a traditional gallery space with prints derived or inspired by the films, but still functioning as unique objects.

The exhibition includes the artist collaborative feature film Sugar and prints by Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley; Mantis City, a video and print by Tobias Bernstrup; Winchester Trilogy, videos and print by Jeremy Blake; The Possible Ties Between Illness and Success, an interactive video and prints Carlo Zanni; This Delicate Monster, video and prints by Michelle Handelman; and The Swing, 3-D animation and prints by Claudia Hart.

Romanticism as a movement emerged in the late 1700s. Artists took a stance against formal aesthetics to define art as a place for sentiment, nature, and the play of the imagination. This was an idea of art in which individuals shared their subjective realities with the public. Since that time, technologies of representation have advanced from still to moving images, from early cinema to Hollywood films to personal computers and the Internet. A social medium of representation unfolded with the capability to archive and to edit histories, identities, and geographies. These capabilities allow the public to participate in fantastic situations. Movies became popular because they reflect the dreams, fears, or fantasies of a mass public. The impact of Hollywood film and mass media is intriguing sociologically: How does consumer culture affect the personal? How does it effect the way people define their own identities?

Artists of the 50s and 60s started using the machinery of commercial culture to create and engage a broad public. This tendency was later identified as “Pop”. Today’s contemporary artist raises the ante of the Pop aesthetic by creating works that reflect our communal experiences. Communality is the key to the success of the movies and mass media; both use the tactic of bringing together a general consensus and the popular. The market and the media are based on the human need to shareempathy, opinion, and historymaking the media generative by the public and the media reflecting back and forth on each other.

In the contemporary art context these cinematic or communal works become the romantic concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art. The exhibited works are cinematic and poetic by the nature of their production and their narratives. They reference historic compositions to create an emotional outlook on nature. These works are also a good index of the values and needs of our society because they are invested in our cultural life. In them the hierarchies and histories of art making is deconstructed and reapplied to these artists’ craft and aesthetics, aligning theirs artistic intention with the ideas of romanticism.

Meme: Romanticism suggests that Romanticism was more than a formal movement of the past but successful in changing and adapting with the times and the exigencies of historyand with the needs contemporary art making.

Curated by: Michele Thursz, 2006
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