The Continuing Curve-Rococo at Cooper Hewitt

Posted in artlies, nerdlette by nerdlette on 4 June 2008

Cooper Hewitt has on view a smart little exhibition tracing the rococo impulse from its 17th c origins to contemporary designs. [exhibition website] That the building is one of the most beautiful and genuinely pleasant places to see art in New York does not hurt either.

While the curators present a really strong body of work throughout, the show nevertheless reminded me that a powerful sense of movement and dynamic energy seems to always be lost when a visual technique becomes a codified style.

Compare the work of Rococo originator Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier on the top with the candlestick on the bottom, produced by a later follower of his style. The candlestick is elegant and beautifully executed, but it lacks the fluid motion of Meissonnier’s turine.

Like a game of visual telephone, Meissonnier’s curves seem inspired by directly observing the movement of waves in the ocean. The follower appears to be working from the notion of “natural curves like waves or tree branches.”

The art nouveau jewelry was incredible:

This piece is entitled “Femmes-insectes et Cygnes noirs” or Ladybugs and black swans…

The wall texts makes the facinating observation that rococo occurs in times of prosperity. This lends me to wonder whether the 90s raver style and the club culture-rooted work of artists like Assume vivid astro focus and deerraindrop will find themselves in future Rococo shows.

best other quote from the exhibition text:

Germany viewed France as a model of style but not restraint.