American Dreamers. Reality and Imagination in Contemporary American Art, an exhibition organised in conjunction with the Hudson River Museum (Yonkers, New York) and curated by Bartholomew Bland, opens at the Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (Palazzo Strozzi, Florence) on 9 March 2012. It comprises a reflection on the work of artists who use their fantasy, their imagination and their dreams to build alternative worlds to the increasingly complex and difficult reality of life today.
Does the "American dream" still exist? Since 11 September 2011 the United States of America has witnessed the collapse of its sense of invulnerability and security, but at the same time a spirit of optimism, the ability to imagine and to dream, the will to carry on believing in a future with a happy ending through work and through the triumph of the values of freedom and of equality of opportunity, have maintained their central place in the very idea of "being American" and of the "American dream". The latter promises success and happiness constantly fuelled by the fantasy of Hollywood and by the aesthetics adopted in the advertising campaigns of such leading multinational brands as Coca Cola or Walt Disney. Fleeing reality is a way of fighting against the complex difficulties of life today: a psychological break with reality or the creation of a better alternative become strategies for escaping from such concrete and very real threats as rising unemployment, the negative international financial situation, or forecasts of impending environmental doom.
The eleven American artists involved in the exhibition (Laura Ball, Adrien Broom, Nick Cave, Will Cotton, Adam Cvijanovic, Richard Deon, Thomas Doyle, Mandy Greer, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Patrick Jacobs and Christy Rupp) resort to their imagination to produce a personal revisitation of reality or at times even a flight from that reality, through the construction of parallel, alternative worlds which explicitly turn their backs on "true" reality. Some of the works condense the essence of reality into miniaturised systems while others expand outwards into space, creating worlds in which spectators can immerse themselves in parallel realities, and yet others feed on fantastic, dreamlike images or reflect on such symbolic themes as the home and the family which continue even today to play a central role in the construction of the myth of the “American way of life”.
The exhibition attempts to explore these different issues revealing the language of the artists involved in order to create parallel worlds that, in many cases, are in sharp contrast with each other. The show opens with a site-specific work by Adam Cvijanovic (1960), whose wall painting draws visitors into a visual illusion, a surprising panorama that portrays an idyllic and typically American urban landscape that can be interpreted in two different ways: is it being demolished or built? Will Cotton has created an unreal world of overabundance in which everything becomes cotton candy, custard and cream, merging references to the American pop culture (from the singer Katy Perry to Candy Land, a board game that is immensely popular among American children) and art history (18th-century French painting by artists such as François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard).