Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art

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9780943651354: Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art

The catalogue of this exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the Pattern and Decoration Movement (P&D) and an exploration of its enduring contribution to the American art scene.

P&D flourished as an alternative in American art, in contrast to the painterly abstraction championed by critics such as Clement Greenberg. The energetic work of its artists challenged the status quo of Minimalism, Formalism, and Conceptualism. They valued the bold pattern, craft, and ornament that was prompted in the 1960s and 70s by a new regard for the Women s Movement and women s esthetic drive, non-western art, and artists travels in Europe, Mexico, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The artists drew from the diverse subject matter they saw for their elaborate and eccentric images. The guest curator for the exhibition, Dr. Anne Swartz, comments:

P&D is an interesting counterweight to claims of uni-directional cultural influence and arrogance that America sends out but does not acknowledge the importation of cultural forms and motifs. Arguably, P&D is the first postmodern art movement because its artists utilized a broad array of source material and embraced the impermanent, the common, and the excluded in forming their content and images.

The exhibition explores the work of artists prominent within the P&D Movement in the 1970s Cynthia Carlson, Brad Davis, Valerie Jaudon, Jane Kaufman, Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, Kim MacConnel, Tony Robbin, Miriam Schapiro, Ned Smyth, and Robert Zakanitch. Responsive to non-western art and folk art as well as textile design and wallpaper, their work has, in turn, influenced many quarters of the art world.

A fully illustrated catalogue is being published in conjunction with the exhibition. It includes an introduction by Arthur Danto, art critic for The Nation; essays on the role of feminism in P&D by art historian Temma Balducci, assistant professor of art history at Arkansas State University; essays on the legacy of P&D by critic John Perrault; and, a major study on the scope, reception, and history of P&D by Guest Curator Anne Swartz , professor of art history at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

The rediscovery of Pattern and Decoration places it as a principal cultural movement of the late 1960s and 70s. It was in this period that the Hudson River Museum dramatically expanded under the then director Richard Koshalek. The Museum provided a platform for some of the larger scale artworks of this period that led to site-specific installations by Dan Flavin and Red Grooms, artists far removed from the P&D Movement. The Hudson River Museum had previously looked at some of the figures in P&D in its influential exhibition A New Beginning 1968-1978, one of the earliest attempts to reevaluate the art of that tumultuous decade. Brad Davis, Robert Kushner, Kim MacConnel, and Ned Smyth were all featured. The Museum brought to attention the appeal of both Robert Kushner and Miriam Shapiro, highlighting them in its 1998 exhibition Hanging by a Thread. Robert Zakanitch s P&D work is one of the strengths of the Museum s permanent collection.

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Review:

Excerpted from Scaling a Minimalist Wall with Bright, Shiny Colors by Holland Cotter, The New York Times, January 8, 2008

YONKERS Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975-1985, at the Hudson River Museum, documents the last genuine art movement of the 20th century, which was also the first and only art movement of the postmodern era and may well prove to be the last art movement ever.

We don t do art movements anymore. We do brand names (Neo-Geo); we do promotional drives ( Painting is back! ); we do industry trends (art fairs, M.F.A students at Chelsea galleries, etc.). But now the market is too large, its mechanism too corporate, its dependence on instant stars and products too strong to support the kind of collective thinking and sustained application of thought that have defined movements as such. Pattern and Decoration, known as P&D, was the real thing. The artists were friends, friends of friends or students of friends. Most were painters, with distinctive styles but similar interests and experiences. All had had exposure to, if not immersion in, the liberation politics of the 1960s and early 70s, notably feminism. All were alienated by dominant movements like Minimalism.

They were also acutely aware of the universe of cultures that lay beyond or beneath Euro-American horizons, and of the alternative models they offered for art. Varieties of art from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as folk traditions in the West, blurred distinctions between art and design, high and low, object and idea. They used abstract design as a primary form and ornament as an end in itself. They took beauty, whatever that meant, as a given.

P&D artists were scattered geographically. Some Robert Kushner, Kim MacConnel, Miriam Schapiro were in California. Others Cynthia Carlson, Brad Davis, Valerie Jaudon, Jane Kaufman, Joyce Kozloff, Tony Robbin, Ned Smyth, Robert Zakanitch were in New York. As a group they found an eloquent advocate in the critic and historian Amy Goldin, who was immersed in the study of Islamic art. And they had an early commercial outlet in the Holly Solomon Gallery in SoHo.

They all asked the same basic question: When faced with a big, blank, obstructing Minimalist wall, too tall, wide and firmly in place to get over or around, what do you do? And they answered: You paint it in bright patterns, or hang pretty pictures on it, or drape it with spangled light-catching fabrics. The wall may eventually collapse under the accumulated decorative weight. But at least it will look great.

--New York Times

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Anne Swartz; Arthur C. Danto; John Perreault; Temma Balducci; Michael Botwinick
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