PARIS — For Christopher D’Amelio and Lucien Terras, the duo behind New York’s D’Amelio Terras gallery, art is urgent.

Or at least that was the thinking behind a speedily mounted group show of emerging young American artists that opens at the Bibliotheque Thiers on the Right Bank tonight and runs through July 11.

This story first appeared in the June 24, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Dubbed “Noctambule,” the exhibition features a nascent wave in American art that D’Amelio terms “modern gothic,” a trend he first spotted at the 2004 Whitney Biennial, where several of the artists’ work was included. “This [art] is new,” enthuses D’Amelio. “When an idea is good, sometimes it must be immediate. It gives it power.”

D’Amelio explained that the artists — though working in the diverse mediums of painting, sculpture, photography and video — are unified in vision. All in their 20s and 30s, the artists are Chloe Piene, David Altmejd, Matt Greene, Matthew Brannon, Amy Globus, Hanna Liden, Banks Violette and Michael Wetzel. “They aren’t concerned with the future or technology,” he says. “They are looking back to the past. They are inspired by gothic art and music, or probing dreams. It’s very introspective art.”

This nostalgic leaning made Paris, a city steeped in history, the perfect choice for the show, D’Amelio said. Not to mention that the venue, an ornate library that was once the residence of 19th-century French president Adolphe Thiers, is smack in the heart of what was the nerve center of Paris’ Romantic moment.

Coincidentally, D’Amelio says many of the show’s leitmotivs — menacing naturescapes, eroticism, decay —mirror those explored by Romantics such as Caspar David Friedrich and Symbolists such as Odilon Redon and Gustav Moreau, whose studio, which is now a museum, was around the corner from the Bibliotheque Thiers. “There’s a real Romantic strain in the work,” he says. “It fits perfectly with the neighborhood. The artists are exploring the 19th-century idea that there is beauty in the darkness of things.”

He points to a large sculpture by Altmejd with simulated werewolf-like heads frozen between decay and bejeweled crystallization, and Liden’s hauntingly beautiful landscape photos with death-masked figures. “This work isn’t necessarily morbid,” adds D’Amelio. “These artists came of age in a darker era. They have less of a belief in the rationality of things.”

Meanwhile, D’Amelio hopes to jolt what many consider Paris’ sleepy contemporary art scene, often eclipsed by the shock value of London and the high-money stakes in New York.

“I think it’s time for Paris to make a comeback,” he says.

— Robert Murphy

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