Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Scaling a Minimalist Wall With Bright, Shiny Colors 
Published: January 15, 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 do'’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. 


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. ... Ms. Carlson's all-over tweedlike patterns, done with repeated strokes of thick paint, are less specific in their references. And even if Ms. Jaudon doesn’t insist on Islamic art as a source for her crisp interlace designs, it surely had some effect."

Valerie Jaudon
"Pattern and Decoration, An Ideal Vision"
Hudson River Museum

by Alexandra Anderson-Spivy
January 2008

"Pattern and Decoration, An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975-1985" Oct. 27, 2007-Jan. 20, 2008, at the Hudson River Museum, 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, N.Y. 10701

"Is it time for a reassessment of Pattern and Decoration, the painting movement from the 1970s known informally as "P&D"? Though a prime opportunity for a savvy major museum survey still exists for the taking, we do have two recent shows at regional museums that provide a good start. 

It was over 30 years ago that the polemical passions and youthful energy of a new generation of artists propelled the goals of P&D into the limelight. Forming what turned out to be a transitory coalition, this group of disparate artists rebelled against the authority of Minimalism’s dour austerities and the chilly rigors of Conceptual Art. Instead, these iconoclasts served up laces, African and Indian fabrics, fur, feathers, sequins and glitter, Orientalist arabesques and floral patterns from 1950s wallpapers. 

Like generations of artists before them, they aimed to shake up a Eurocentric, male-dominated art establishment. With unfettered enthusiasm, the P&D artists took both high and low images from global cultures, and made a special point of incorporating into their work traditionally feminine materials and techniques, notably needlework and appliqué. These artists aggressively rejected the prevailing hierarchy of materials and styles and embraced what was then considered "bad taste." They adored the ironic riches of kitsch and asked, "Who says what is good taste anyway?" 

This dynamic energizes "Pattern and Decoration, An Ideal Vision" at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers. Cynthia Carlson, Brad Davis, Valerie Jaudon, Jane Kaufman, Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, Kim MacConnel, Tony Robbin, Miriam Schapiro, Ned Smyth and Bob Zakanitch made the curatorial cut. Selecting only 35 works by those 11 artists, curator Anne Swartz focuses on a core group that, between 1975 and the early 1980s, energetically attacked any barriers between fine and decorative art. While the catalogue -- whose contributors include Arthur Danto and John Perreault -- stresses shared theoretical and ideological concerns, the exhibition accentuates the stylistic differences among the artists that existed from the start.


Valerie Jaudon is represented by three beautiful rotated grid paintings from the mid-70s that are standouts in the show, pristinely elegant in their puzzle-like complexity. Two are glowingly monochromatic and essentially graphic. The third, Yoomsuba (1973), an intricate and kaleidoscopic tour de force of interwoven multicolored grids and circles, could hold its own in any Chelsea Gallery today. These works demonstrate Jaudon’s grounding in strict visual systems. Such systems of recurring forms across an allover field are both an evolution from the Minimalist grid and at the heart of operative decorative principles."

Read full article on Artnet


AU Museum Gives Women's Work the 'Space' It Deserves

By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, November 18, 2007; Page M10

"Focused and urgent, American University's "Claiming Space: Some American Feminist Originators" reasserts early feminism's core message: Size does matter. Women, this show reminds us, should take up as much space as men -- both physically and metaphorically. 

Curated by the eminent art historians Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (both of whom have contributed essays to these pages), the exhibition at the Katzen Arts Center collects large-scale works -- early feminist agitators Faith Ringgold and Miriam Schapiro look especially impressive here -- made in the shadow of the 20th century's most male-dominated movements: abstract expressionism and minimalism. 

Where ab-ex was about gesture and minimalism about its lack, a certain strain of feminist art on view at the Katzen took formerly scorned "women's work" -- quilting and decorative painting -- and magnified it a zillionfold, scaling up women's themes into man-size formats."

Read full review

When bad was good: the art scene of downtown Manhattan ca. 1974-1984 is resurrected in a show that originated in New York and is now in Pittsburgh
Art in America, June-July, 2006 by Raphael Rubinstein  

"The artists who emerged in the mid-1970s and early 1980s were the first generation to be educated on the model of the de-skilled artist. Often taught by Conceptualists, they came out of art schools and university MFA programs with a lot of interesting ideas about visual art but little training in how to make it. In many cases, particularly for those interested in painting, this meant they had to teach themselves, essentially starting all over again after graduation. This was especially true of Cal Arts, where, under the aegis of figures such as John Baldessari and Allan Kaprow, the emphasis was on "post-studio" art. (Cal Arts graduates in this show include Jack Goldstein, Troy Brauntuch and David Salle.)


Wojnarowicz's closest competitor for frequent sightings in "The Downtown Show" isn't an artist at all, but a dealer and collector: Holly Solomon, whose image could be seen in a glamorous triple 1976 portrait by Robert Mapplethorpe, and who either owned or first exhibited (or both) many of the works in the show by artists such as Wegman, Brauntuch, Laurie Anderson, Donna Dennis, Tina Girouard, Valerie Jaudon, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Judy Pfaff and Joe Zucker. Also suggestive of a Solomon connection is Robert Kushner's Pink (1974), a diaphanous, kimonolike concoction of chiffon and silk that hangs from the ceiling.

Solomon showed many artists associated with the Pattern & Decoration movement of the mid-to-late-1970s, and the presence of some of them here (Kushner and Jaudon) is a sign that this exhibition is attempting to survey a wider range of New York art than only the Lower East Side/ East Village scene."

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Pulling Down the Shade

"The word is out. Brice Marden is the one. 

I am not sure that his elegant retrospective at MoMA -- now we know what those sixth-floor rooms were for -- proves conclusively that he has saved abstract painting, but it sure looks like it. And it looks like a great deal of "baaaad" painting will finally have to bite the dust. Certain critics (and curators and collectors too) in the '80s thought that painting could be saved by forgetting about boring old abstract art. We were on an anti-minimalist jag. Fake expressionism reared its head. Stupid was smart. 

Looking back, Marden's debut paintings now seem radical, although at the time I thought them conservative. Times change. I think these days we have a hunger for abstract painting. I know I do. And, I hasten to add, this is not a retreat from the world, no matter how many reasons there may be for such a retreat. It may be that we have reached image-overload. And our brains need a rest from Pop Art Redux. Our eyes need something deeper, richer, and -- dare I say it? -- more spiritual to take a look at, to explore.


And then something happens. Marden begins to break into squiggles. I don't quite see how this relates to his announced interest in Chinese calligraphy and scholar's rocks. Let us just say that they look like spaghetti or maps of the paths that five characters might take in one of those intertwining plot-point movies that started with Robert Altman (who must have been reading Victor Hugo or listening to soap operas when he was a boy). The colors now are brighter. They worm around on monochromatic grounds and have a sassier effect. Cheerful? Can worms be cheerful? It is as if Marden has combined smudged versions of Valerie Jaudon's Islamic interlacings and Dan Christiansen's spray-paint loops."

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