December 1, 2007

Pattern and Decoration revisted in Yonkers

Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975-1985,” curated by Anne Swartz. Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY. Through Jan. 20.

The HRM presents the work of 11 artists prominent within the 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. In the NYTimes, Benjamin Genocchio isn't charmed by the handiwork. "A celebration of patterning and color doesn’t necessarily make great art. Looking at this exhibition also made me question whether Pattern and Decoration was an art movement at all. Some of the 35 works assembled here seem so widely divergent in spirit and style that you wonder what they had in common. Cynthia Carlson’s and Valerie Jaudon’s paintings are akin to Minimalism, while Brad Davis’s art is pure Pop Art kitsch. Perhaps the movement is best understood as a temporary aesthetic alliance of artists with varying agendas. Explored artist by artist, this show contains some interesting and worthy works. While they may not have a powerful claim on art history, they do have much to tell us about the American art world of the 1970s and ’80s....In recent times art historians have tried to re-brand Pattern and Decoration as a sub-sect of feminist dissent. Anne Swartz, the show’s curator, takes this approach in her essay in the exhibition catalog, arguing that Pattern and Decoration artists 'embraced the joyful, pleasurable, optimistic, and inclusive aspects of feminism.' This feels somewhat like critical overreaching, for most if not all feminist art of the era was concerned not with joy, but with rage."

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