Fondation Dosne—Bibliotheque Thiers, Paris
Organized by D’Amelio Terras
June 24 – July 10, 2004
Organized by D’Amelio Terras, Noctambule is an exhibition of young American artists presented at the Bibliotheque Thiers, an exceptional Parisian hôtel particulier off the beaten path of the contemporary art circuit. The artists, several of whom are included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial or have previously exhibited together, define one of the newest aspects of contemporary American art. This exhibition marks both the first time that some of them have exhibited in Europe and the first time that D’Amelio Terras will organize an exhibition of this scale in Paris.
Noctambule celebrates the emergence of a group of American artists whose practices, while formally and materially quite distinct, are nonetheless connected by an inquiry into the eerie, uncanny, dark, and unknown. Although some have been grouped under the rubric of the “Modern Gothic,” these artists focus less on the gothic’s contemporary subcultural connotations than on its fin-de-siecle suggestions of nocturnal transformation and otherworldliness. The title Noctambule, a French word for that which comes alive at night, pays homage to a nineteenth century attitude of Romantic idealism and Victorian decadence embodied in these artists’ work. This attitude is manifested in gothic iconographies and their attempts to create counternarratives in the shadow of recent economic excesses, the promises of technology, and other Western cultural utopias. Anxiety over the limits and boundaries of this progress inevitably leads to diverse investigations into the supernatural, natural forces, imaginative delusions, religious and human evil, social transgression, and spiritual corruption.
With the current emphasis on New York, London, Los Angeles, and Berlin as preeminent contemporary art centers, new artists and trends seem to appear in real time at different points on this network. Once the center of artistic productivity, Paris has now been supplanted by other European capitals—despite its citizens’ eagerness for the newest developments in art and culture—as a chosen destination for art enthusiasts. For this reason, D’Amelio Terras has chosen Paris as the destination for this show of a new generation of American artists. The unexpected location offers a fresh perspective on these young artists’ work. The Bibliotheque Thiers, situated on Place Saint-Georges, is located in the heart of the quarter called “La Nouvelle Athènes” (the New Athens), a nineteenth century literary center. The building now houses a library dedicated to the period. The five salons on the ground floor and one grand room on the first floor sharply contrast New York’s spare exhibition spaces and offer an uncommon opportunity for
viewers to see works in an environment whose history resonates with what’s on view.