Art Nouveau Glass and Pottery Exhibition

Contact: Ralph Derickson

Photo of Peacock Decorated Vase, Louis Comfort Tiffany (circa, 1900Photo of Daum Brothers Table Lamp
(l-r) Peacock Decorated Vase, Louis Comfort Tiffany (circa, 1900) and Daum Brothers Table Lamp

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Fantastical decorations were designed to replicate the vibrating, highly sensitive world of the subconscious, replacing external reality with an internal fantasy world. Art Nouveau glass and ceramic pieces, when seen in this context, take on new layers of meaning.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 30, 2004) -- “Opening the Gates of Consciousness: Art Nouveau Glass and Pottery,” an exhibition from the collections of the University of Kentucky Art Museum, Syracuse University, and private collectors, will be on display Sept. 5 through Nov. 7 in the UK Art Museum at Rose Street and Euclid Avenue.

The exhibition is in collaboration with the 2004 ideaFestival, an international conference (Sept. 22-25) focused on the theme of consciousness. Opening the Gates of Consciousness will revisit art nouveau and the fin-de-siècle period (1885-1914), exploring how artists accessed their subconscious and unconscious psyches.

The turn of the 20th century – much like the turn of the 21st – was a time rife with apocalyptic prediction and psychological investigation, according to Kathy Walsh-Piper, director of the UK Art Museum. The ideas of Sigmund Freud gave rise to new artistic movements such as Symbolism. The Symbolists – writers, poets, artists and composers – formulated theories about the psychic world, particularly the dream state, Walsh-Piper said.

Through art, music and literature, they tried to evoke emotional states and appeal directly to the inner world of the audience through sounds, forms, colors and textures.

Many artists working in the Art Nouveau style, including several of the decorative artists featured in the exhibition (Émile Gallé, the Daum brothers, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frederick Carder, and Jacques Sicard), were heavily influenced by the Symbolist movement.

During this period, the interior of the home was seen as a sensory environment, and interior décor became a source of psychological stimulation.

Fantastical decorations were designed to replicate the vibrating, highly sensitive world of the subconscious, replacing external reality with an internal fantasy world. Art Nouveau glass and ceramic pieces, when seen in this context, take on new layers of meaning, said Walsh-Piper.

These objects, though beautiful by themselves, Walsh-Piper added, were not meant to be experienced independent of the interior as a whole, she added. The brilliant colors, sensual textures, and graceful forms of the glass and pottery were designed in conjunction with furniture, textiles, wall coverings, and other decorations to provide a sensory escape into a world of dreams, hallucinations and the unconscious.

The legacies of Art Nouveau echo throughout the 20th and the 21st centuries, from the integrated interiors of Frank Lloyd Wright to Surrealism to the psychedelic art of the 1960s to contemporary stream-of-consciousness video art.

Admission to see the “Opening the Gates of Consciousness: Art Nouveau Glass and Pottery” exhibit is $8 for the general public, $5 for senior citizens, and $6 for groups (by reservation). The exhibition is free for UK Art Museum members and UK faculty, staff and students.

The public also is invited to a French cabaret at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 in the UK Art Museum galleries. Tickets to this event are $15 for general audiences and $10 for UK Art Museum members. Call (859) 257-5716 for tickets and for more information.

The UK Art Museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. on Friday. The museum is closed Mondays and University holidays. For general museum information, call (859) 257-5716.


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