The Symbolists: Seeing Beyond Reality at HESSE FLATOW


In his oft-cited 1886 essay The Symbolist Manifesto – a pivotal assertion that came at the genesis of a soon-to-mushroom 20th Century Symbolist movement – the Greek literati Jean Moréas put forth that “representations of nature, human activities and all real life events don’t stand on their own; they are rather veiled reflections of the senses pointing to archetypal meanings through their esoteric connections.”


Prior to a renaissance-stemmed broadening of construct, art writ large took on the documentarian role of primitive writing, encapsulating for centuries what Moréas described as up-front value solely representational. To transcend the invisible boundaries of such a dynamic, yet, was to dualize the medium within itself: whereas to pick up a paintbrush anterior to the transition was to place a mirror in front of reality, to do so afterward was to give the mirror free reign within the real world’s most poignant insecurities. 


Showing at HESSE FLATOW from February 18th through March 20th, “The Symbolists: Les fleurs du mal” – an exhibition co-curated by Nicole Kaack and Karen Hesse Flatow – seeks to expound upon the thread of typology set in stone by the aforementioned shift by presenting en masse a collection of artworks that work in tandem to combat the conventional routes of idealism. “Challenging the escapist impulse with criticality and humor, the artists in this show are not dealing in pure abstraction, rather, finding ways to express injustice, trepidation, and hope for the future through new figures, contemporary or invented,” Kaack told Sammy’s World in an email. “Drawing on the symbolic material of popular culture, astrology, the internet, and beyond, this show responds to the expansion of virtual worlds which, as ever, run in tandem with reality.”