The Neo-Victorians: Contemporary Artists Revive Gilded-Age Glamour
February 10 - May 13, 2018
 
                Nick Simpson (British). The Astonishing Steam Rhinomotive, 2017.
                C-type archival print. Courtesy of the artist and Carrie Haddad Gallery.

Decadence is often alluring in its exuberance, but it can also be sinister and subversive in its indulgence. The Neo-Victorians explores a resurgence of interest over the last decade in ornamental lushness that conceals pointed social commentary beneath a seductive surface technique.

There is no coherent “Neo-Victorian” movement—no manifesto or single guiding principle subscribed to by each of these artists. Rather, the exhibition highlights a wide range of artists’ engagement with the aesthetics of the 19th century, which they have shaped, molded, and transformed to reflect today’s concerns, commenting on gender roles and societal tensions under the guise of the overt beauty.

The exhibition looks at these works through three broad thematic groupings: the artist as naturalist, the artist as purveyor of the fantastical, and the artist as explorer of domesticity. Some of the artists featured in the exhibition focus on just one of these themes, while others intersect with recurring motifs layered within these broad ideas.

Artists in the exhibition include: Jennifer Angus, Troy Abbott, Joan Bankemper, Nancy Blum, Alison Collins, Camille Eskell, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Marilyn Holsing, Patrick Jacobs, Pat Lasch, Catherine Latson, Zachari Logan, Chet Morrison, Donna Sharrett, Deborah Simon, and Nick Simpson.

Troy Abbott (American). Blue Clover, 2017. ABS video, mixed media.
Courtesy of the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Coconut Grove, FL.
Chet Morrison (American). Man and his Bird, 2005. Ebson enhanced matte paper.
Courtesy of the artist.

Each of the artists in The Neo-Victorians rejects the notion of industrial mass production, instead visibly emphasizing and reveling in elaborate construction, a surfeit of detailed design, and a visceral appeal to the senses. The artists on view conjure a staggering array of possible approaches to the subject matter, using a wide variety of materials designed to engage the eye.

The Neo-Victorians will encourage audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with the Gilded Age—on view in the Hudson River Museum’s historic home Glenview—to look at the growing group of contemporary of artists imbued with a “Victorian aesthetic” and recognize how visual influences of the past continue to shape art in the present day.


This exhibition is curated by Bartholomew F. Bland, Executive Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York.