Out of the Ruins Exhibition New Art Center, Newtonville, MA (Sept. 10-Oct. 10, 2012)
Featuring the work of: Christopher Carroll, Clare Grill , Jane Fox Hipple, Fred H. C. Liang, Ryan McLennan, Gina Ruggeri, Marisa Tesauro and Elizabeth Thach.
Out of the Ruins is an exhibition of work by artists working more than two centuries after the Romantic Movement first began. Romanticism emerged out of late 18th century Northern Continental Europe and represented a philosophical, literary and artistic reaction to the Enlightenment. The Romantic tradition emphasized the idea of a transcendent sublime, the figure of the artist as a lone genius or wanderer, the cult of originality, and the privileging of emotion as an artistic starting point. These ideas remain art historical touchstones. So many art historical “isms” over time, including surrealism and abstract expressionism, can be read as either endorsing these concepts or ostensibly rejecting them, often while retaining them in another form.
With time comes clarity, and today we understand that many of the theoretical assumptions underlying Romanticism have problematic implications. Many of the great Romantic masterpieces represent cultural tastes that have been clichéd for centuries. Nevertheless, even as artists working today strive to be contemporary, contemporary artistic concerns are very much informed by the Romantic legacy. This exhibition brings together the work of artists who engage with the tradition in an open-minded way, either by referencing Romantic subject matter or by explicitly addressing Romantic concepts.
While all of the artists shown in this exhibition can be understood through the lens of the Romantic tradition, they are actively reimagining it. Instead of being burdened by a blindly sentimental celebration of the Romantic tradition or a dogmatic repudiation of it, these artists take a pragmatic approach. Mindful of history, they use what they need from the Romantics to create something that has personal resonance today.
I would like to thank the New Art Center’s Curatorial Opportunity Program for putting on this exhibition and thank the New Art Center staff for their assistance. I would also like to thank the various individuals that have contributed to the project behind the scenes: Benjamin Parker, W. Joseph Miles, Beth Ireland, Mary Troxell, Wilson H. Lawrence and an anonymous philosopher.