I have been thinking about this topic for a long time, but watching the Olympics last night finally convinced me to write on a trend that has been on the rise for several years now, the resurgence of the style of Art Nouveau, or what I call Neo Art Nouveau (hey its catchy right?).
Maybe this trend is powered by the new scientific possibilities of stem cell technology or cloning. The multiplication of organic life and cells certainly lends itself well to the art nouveau style. Like the promise of alchemy long ago, our new biological technology promise to create whole new organs and limbs out of baser tissue. The Neo Art Nouveau movement has perhaps responded to this through the stylized organic forms and swirls typical of the original, fin de siecle artistic movement, bursting across all sorts of images and media here in the 21st century.
I think that I first started noticing this trend in the design-based work of Ryan McGuiness (seen below)
Left: Ryan McGuiness. Untitled (Black Hole, Black), 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 72 in. dia. Right: Detail
His curving arabesques and love of decoration and design have frequently reminded me of the historical art noveau style. As does the way that McGuiness eschews traditional media boundaries and hierarchies, another similarity to the historical art noveau style.
Although I can't find a good photo of the Olympic pool which had the curving lines typical of the the Neo Nouveau movement, the Chinese Olympic teams all have uniforms that indicate the influence of the art nouveau style. From the official Chinese news site here are publicity photos (these are the uniforms for the basketball team):
Again there are the curving, swirling lines and patterns typical of the original art nouveau style. A 19th century art review described these lines (originally describing the curving lines in a wall-hanging of a flower) as "sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip," over time these lines were referred to as "whiplash" and became a staple of the art nouveau movement. They are also a staple of the revival movement, sometimes the only connecting motif.
The neo art nouveau movement is by no means limited in its influences to only historical art nouveau. While I have posited that art nouveau is an overarching genre, there are also elements of the baroque and rococo in some works. This is entirely appropriate considering the "neo-rococo" movement that is being written about in relation to artists like Jeff Koons in the pages of ArtForum. If anything the neo art nouveau is characterized by a variety of influences which all seem to be more or less subserviant to the organic, flowing, curvilinear motifs typical of the historical art nouveau. This 21st century movement adds influences like design (as I cited for Ryan McGuiness), especially graphic design, street art and graffiti. Typical of the original movement, neo art nouveau embraces bright colors and eschews traditional barriers between media. The below advertisement for a popular shoe brand demonstrates all these aspects working in tandem:
So keep your eyes open for the Neo Art Nouveau, once you start to notice it, you'll see it everywhere.
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