In the last 10 years, artists and the art world have turned, again, to lushness, pursuing extravagant beauty in art in all its mediums. The Neo-Victorians presentsmore than a dozen contemporary artists who, looking back to Victorian antecedents, revel in elaborate construction and detail in design and decoration to create art of overwhelming visual appeal.
For Neo-Victorians, “art for arts sake” means the value of art is not in social or moral uplift but rests, instead, on beauty divorced from practical application. “Art for arts sake,” once the mantra of 19th-century British Arts and Crafts artists, was then upturned by 20th-century Modernists demanding “form follow function.” This exhibition highlights the engagement of today’s artists with the aesthetics of the 19th century. They share a love of craft and detail from the past, as they shape, mold, and transform what they create to reflect social concerns, often marrying surface appeal to comments on race, gender roles, and societal strife — comments to be discovered beneath the lush and fantastical.
Guest-curated by Bartholomew F. Bland, Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery and the Hudson River Museum’s former Director of Curatorial Affairs.