The Course of Empire
July 28 – August 26,
Opening Reception: Friday, July 28, 6PM – 9PM
In The Course of Empire (1833 - 1836), Thomas Cole described the rise and fall of a fictional civilization as an allegory for American society in the 19th century. The country faced unprecedented industrial and technological change, expansion, and internal conflicts that threatened its very survival. Despite Cole's warnings, the our nation didn't spiral inevitably into a state of destruction. Cole himself might be surprised by the resilience of the nation, indeed civilization in general, a century-and-a-half later. Nearly 200 years later, many of the same issues still occupy our minds. Issues like climate change, political division, social instability, and scarceness of resources, might make one feel locked into an equally hopeless sequence, perhaps living in the final stages of Cole's "The Consummation." Yet, many others remain more optimistic, believing we continue to reside in the arcadian adolescence our civilization. Which state in the cycle best represents where we are now? It depends on who you ask. The Course of Empire features artists with a take on that question, and offer through their work either a soothing reassurance, a skeptical reminder, or a foreboding warning about which stage we occupy in the allegorical narrative that Cole imagined early in the 19th century.