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A Spirit Of Hard-Won Optimism Prevails In Contemporary Art In "Damaged Romanticism: A Mirror Of Modern Emotion"

Originally Posted: January 29, 2009

"Shipbreaking No. 50, Chittagong, Bangladesh," 2001, C-print, 22 1/2 x 45 inches, Courtesy Charles Cowles Gallery, New York. © 2008 Edward Burtynsky.

"Snake Bite," 2004, Ink acrylic, collage, sequins on Mylar, 34 1/2 x 41 inches, Private
collection. Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.
Photo by Gene Ogami.

Southampton - "Damaged Romanticism: A Mirror of Modern Emotion" brings together the work of 15 internationally recognized contemporary artists, whose art explores the confrontation between classic, highly idyllic romanticism and contemporary, pragmatic realism. "Damaged Romanticism" revolves around a seemingly simple premise - powerful, positive artwork can spring from profound disappointment. It captures the complexity of contemporary reality by giving form to intricate, even contradictory sentiments, placing rebellion, disillusionment, and defiance side by side.

Works on view in the exhibition include painting, sculpture, installations, photography and video and explore varied subjects - such as nature, the modern landscape, the human body, identity, relationships and spirituality - presenting artists' multi-layered responses to the world.

According to Terrie Sultan, Director of The Parrish Art Museum and an organizer of the exhibition, "The artists in 'Damaged Romanticism' do not belong to a style or school in the traditional sense, but they share an outlook that helps define the spirit of our times. Like the original Romantics, who so powerfully transformed the arts and society two centuries ago, they keenly feel the damage wrought by the forces of modernity and by our divorce from the natural world. But the fantasies of these damaged romantics are tempered by a pragmatic realism. Their sense of disillusionment and loss never stops them from clinging stubbornly to hope."

Artists whose work is included in the exhibition are Richard Billingham (England); Berlinde De Bruyckere (Belgium); Edward Burtynsky (Canada); Sophie Calle (France); Petah Coyne (United States); Angelo Filomeno (Italy/United States); Jesper Just (Denmark/United States); Mary McCleary (United States); Florian Maier-Aichen (Germany/United States); Wangechi Mutu (Kenya/United States); Julia Oschatz (Germany); Anneč Olofsson (Sweden); David Schnell (Germany); and Ryan Taber/Cheyenne Weaver (United States).

"Untitled #12," from the series Black Country, 2003, Color lightjet print on Fuji Crystal
Archive paper mounted on aluminum, framed, 44 x 54 inches, Courtesy Anthony
Reynolds Gallery, London. © 2008 Richard Billingham.

Although the works shown in "Damaged Romanticism" have their roots in suffering and misunderstanding, they reject resignation and sorrow in favor of a tough-minded optimism. In contrast to the elegiac spirit often found in classic Romanticism - famously expressed in the 20th century by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his claim that there are no second acts in American lives - these artworks propose that heartbreak can be the ground for renewal. Built on the knowledge that rebirth grows out of experiences of things gone wrong, the notion of healing in "Damaged Romanticism" is couched in the recognition that the future can be better than the present. In the face of a contemporary reality marked by political instability, economic insecurity and social isolation, these artists present slivers of life in all its complexity and complication while offering glimpses of reconciliation grounded in observation, a profound realism, and a belief in the potential of self-empowerment.

The presentation of "Damaged Romanticism" at the Parrish Art Museum has been made possible, in part, through generous support from Sandy and Steve Perlbinder, Martha B. McLanahan, and Lyn and Sam Schwab.

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