Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pattern and decoration

Pattern and decoration can be found in every aspect of our lives and we often overlook it because of its familiarity. Not many people realize that there was actually an art movement in the mid 70's that began as a response to the stark impersonality of Minimal and Post Minimal art. The movement also represented a defense of the idea that decorative art is a humanizing influence and should not be regarded as inferior to ‘fine’ art. Certainly nothing has really changed and this debate continues today resulting in many artists feeling apologetic when their art enters into the "decoration" domain.

As you may have predicted most of the artists involved in the P & D movement were women (it was the mid seventies and feminist concerns were rampant). Two well known female artists whose names were connected to this movement were Joyce Kozloff and Miriam Schapiro. Interestingly enough when you look at their work from the 70"s and compare it to their most current work you will see similarities.

Joyce Kozloff
Tile Wainscott
"Pattern and Decoration, An Ideal Vision"
Hudson River Museum

Joyce Kozloff loved visually rich objects ((I totally identify with this.) and was fascinated with the elaborate patterns of Islamic art. She appreciated art of other countries that was rich and sensuous and created through careful attention to detail. Her paintings have a bold, geometrical structure with an intricate texture of line and strokes on the surface which drew viewers close to the work. Her hope was to break down the hierarchies between high and decorative arts and between primitive and sophisticated cultures.

Miriam Schapiro
American, born 1923
Kimono , 1976
Collage and acrylic on canvas, 60" x 50"
Gift of Jane Roseberry Tolleson '52

MiriamSchiparo is a painter and collage artist who trained at the State University of Iowa and was a teacher at several colleges and universities. Her early work was Abstract Expressionist, but she then turned to a hard-edged geometrical style. Her later works are large, dynamic collages that she calls ‘femmages', made up of buttons, sequins, pieces of embroidery, and other materials from the history of women's ‘covert’ art.

Several men also were involved in the Pattern and Decoration movement. My all time favourite is Robert Kushner, who has defied art trends since that time and has carved out a productive art career creating work that is strongly influenced by this movement. He deserves a post of his own!

The Pattern and Decoration Movement was merely a blip on the radar of the art world, but it did exist and the reasons why it was popular at that time, as well as how it is related to work created today interests me greatly. This style of work correlates well with the only" art training" I had. In it all I think there is an answer to my need to include decorative elements in my work and why my heart quickens when I see elaborate decorative designs.

My teenage years were spent learning the "female arts' from my mother and grandmother; I sewed, knitted, learned to crochet and embroider, I hooked rugs, I even designed clothes. I loved wallpaper, fabrics, and wrapping paper. Pattern and decoration were a huge part of my life. Many of the motifs found on decorative items are derived from the natural world and are reduced to flat two dimensional designs. I often include subtle decorative patterns in my work as a reminder of the connection between culture and nature.

Gains and Losses (2006) mixed media on canvas 12 x 22 in.


-Don said...

Gains and Losses is a rich and vibrant work of art. The rich colors draw me in. The wonderful patterns guide me thru. Something about this whole composition makes me sad. I cannot figure out why yet, but I wanted you to know that I responded to this on a very emotional level. Nice job. -Don

Margaret Ryall said...

Thanks Don. Response on an emotional level is the ultimate compliment for me. I'll write more about this work in my next post. It was one of those benchmark works in my development as an artist. It has a sister piece that did not work out as well.

Kim Hambric said...

Beautiful artwork. I wish to climb in and have a look around.

I am obsessed with pattern and design. At this time of year, there is so much more to look at - ornaments and decorations, cards and wrapping paper. It is almost too much for me.

I do fear that one day I will be hit by a bus, because across the street is an interesting bit of pattern.

Thanks for sharing the information on these other artists.

ArtPropelled said...

Miriam Shapiro is a name I havn't heard in a long time. I can remember pouring over a book of her collages many years ago. We had no internet in South Africa at that stage and I couldn't find anymore information about her. Gains and Losses is a very powerful piece, Margaret. Looking at it enlarged I feel drawn into it.

Kathy said...

It's wonderful to know the "roots" of your art, Margaret. Thanks for sharing this! And, it's great to learn more about these two remarkable artists. I think they're frequently relegated to the "attic" and I'm glad you're pushing them to the forefront. Your painting is poignant and striking!

Margaret Ryall said...

Kim ,
I know you love pattern because it is very evident in your work. You have a knack for putting patterns together. I still think about your house series you recently featured on your blog. My friends laugh when I tell them I get weak in a fabric store, but that is where I go when I want a shot of inspiration.

Robyn and Kathy,
I appreciate your positive comments about Gains and Losses. It is one of my favourites. It quickly sold and flew across the Atlantic to Great Britain never to be seen again. Are you ever sorry you sold a piece? I regret not keeping this one for myself.

By the time December is over everyone who reads this blog will be well immersed in Pattern and Design. It's going to be my December theme. Themes make me feel like I'm a primary teacher again.

The Artist Within Us said...

Well, well,well Margaret!

I look forward to your discussion theme this month and I plan on joining in the debate.

Warmest regards

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

I remember the movement well here in California...the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland produced some very important artists and clay artists were very strong all over California. An interesting time and gave me a strong sense of freedom using my girl skills in art!

RT said...

Good post Margaret! Geometric minimalism is incomprehensible to me. Have you ever seen Robert Kushner`s murals of vegetables in the Gramercy Tavern in NYC? They`re stunning! Those feminists got it right.

hwfarber said...

You've taught me how to look at flower paintings; now I'll learn to appreciate pattern and decoration. The artwork is beautiful.

Margaret Ryall said...

In order for you to participate in the debate, I need to write something to respond to. I better get cracking! Right now I'm working part time and struggling with re- adjusting my schedule.

Blue Sky Dreaming,
Glad you dropped by. I was very uninvolved in art in the 70's. You had the good fortune to see the evolution of this movement. Feel free to suggest any artists who you are familiar with from that period.

Thanks for dropping by. I can only imaging what the work of Kushner's would look like up close and personal. I travel to NY every couple of years and next trip I have a new destination. Thanks for that info.

Margaret Ryall said...

Don't set your expectations too high. I have no idea where I'm going with this topic but go I will.

Martha Marshall said...

Really beautiful work, Margaret. I love your subtle use of pattern with the rich paint passages. I'm a big fan of that movement, which you'd probably never guess from my work.