Image: Faith Ringgold, Windows of the Wedding #4: Man 1974. .
Until May, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is hosting an exhibition celebrating the American Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s and 1980s. With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985 is the first full-scale scholarly survey of this art movement, encompassing works in collage, painting, installation art, and performance documentation.
The Pattern and Decoration movement defiantly embraced forms traditionally coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental, or craft-based and considered to be categorically inferior to fine art. Pattern and Decoration artists gleaned motifs, colour schemes, and materials from the decorative arts, freely appropriating floral, arabesque, and patchwork patterns and arranging them in intricate, almost dizzying, and sometimes purposefully gaudy designs.
Image: Jane Kaufmann quilt, c
Their work across mediums pointedly evokes a pluralistic array of sources from Islamic architectural ornamentation to American quilts, wallpaper, Persian carpets, and domestic embroidery. Pattern and Decoration artists practiced a postmodernist art of appropriation borne of love for its sources rather than the cynical detachment that became de rigueur in the international art world of the 1980s.
This exhibition traces the movement’s broad reach in post-war American art by including artists widely regarded as comprising the core of the movement, such as Valerie Jaudon, Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, Kim MacConnel, and Miriam Schapiro; artists whose contributions to Pattern and Decoration have been underrecognized, such as Merion Estes, Dee Shapiro, Kendall Shaw, and Takako Yamaguchi; as well as artists who are not normally considered in the context of Pattern and Decoration, such as Emma Amos, Billy Al Bengston, Al Loving, and Betty Woodman.
Image: Robert Kushner, Pink Leaves (1979). Ludwig Museum—Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest. © Robert Kushner.
Though little studied today, the Pattern and Decoration movement was institutionally recognized, critically received, and commercially successful from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. The overwhelming preponderance of craft-based practices and unabashedly decorative sensibilities in art of the present-day point to an influential P&D legacy that is ripe for consideration.
For more information visit www.moca.org