This June, the Hessel Museum of Art will present With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985, the first full-scale scholarly North American survey of the groundbreaking yet understudied Pattern and Decoration art movement. Including painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, textiles, installation art, and performance documentation, the exhibition spans the years 1972 to 1985 and features forty-five artists from across the United States. With Pleasure examines the Pattern and Decoration movement’s defiant embrace of forms traditionally coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental, or craft-based and thought to be categorically inferior to fine art. This expansive exhibition traces the movement’s broad reach in postwar 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 under recognized, 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. Originally on view at MOCA Grand Avenue from October 27, 2019 to May 11, 2020 and organized by MOCA Curator Anna Katz, with Assistant Curator Rebecca Lowery, the exhibition will be on view at the Hessel Museum of Art June 26 - November 28, 2021. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated, scholarly catalogue published in association with Yale University Press.
Often described as the first contemporary art movement comprised of majority female artists, Pattern and Decoration—or P&D, as it is commonly known—defied the dominance of modernist art by embracing the much-maligned category of the decorative. P&D artists gleaned motifs, color 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. Their work across mediums pointedly evokes a pluralistic array of sources from Islamic architectural ornamentation to American quilts, wallpaper design, Persian carpets, and Japanese Imari ware ceramics. Pattern and Decoration’s maximalist, eclectic citation of all things ornamental flew in the face of the reductive, cool aesthetics of minimalism, modernist ambitions to purity and self-reflexivity, and conceptual art’s demotion of the handmade. Most importantly, it was intended as a recuperation of forms and techniques historically discredited on the basis of their “femininity” and their status as craft. Shaped and driven in large part by feminism and the development of feminist art historical methods that demystified the logic and rhetoric of value assignation, Pattern and Decoration artists understood modernism as a puritanical art of exclusion—of progressively stripping away or excluding forms and materials deemed extraneous—and sought to create an art based on both aesthetic and political principles of inclusion.
P&D artists practiced a postmodernist art of appropriation born of love for its sources rather than the cynical detachment that became de rigueur in the international art world of the 1980s. 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 legacy that is ripe for consideration.
About the Catalogue: The 328-page exhibition catalogue, With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985, is edited by Anna Katz, and features seven newly commissioned essays by Katz, Elissa Auther, Alex Kitnick, Rebecca Skafsgaard Lowery, Kayleigh Perkov, Sarah-Neel Smith, and Hamza Walker, as well as artist biographies, a bibliography, an exhibition history, and reprints of historically significant writings. It marks the first publication in three or more decades for many of the artworks in the exhibition, and presents new photography of the vast majority of the artworks. Designed by Green Dragon Office, the catalogue is published by MOCA, in association with Yale University Press.
Neda Alhilali (b. 1938, Cheb, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic); lives in Los Angeles)
Emma Amos (b. 1938, Atlanta; lives in New York)
Ralph Bacerra (b. 1938, Garden Grove, California; d. 2008, Los Angeles)
Tony Bechara (b. 1942, San Juan, Puerto Rico; lives in New York)
Lynda Benglis (b. 1941, Lake Charles, Louisiana; lives in New York; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Ahmedabad, India)
Billy Al Bengston (b. 1934, Dodge City, Kansas; lives in Venice, California, and Honolulu)
Cynthia Carlson (b. 1942, Chicago; lives in New York)
Lia Cook (b. 1942, Ventura, California; lives in Berkeley, California)
Brad Davis (b. 1942, Duluth, Minnesota; lives in New York)
Merion Estes (b. 1938, Salt Lake City; lives in Los Angeles)
Sam Gilliam (b. 1933, Tupelo, Mississippi; lives in Washington, DC)
Tina Girouard (b. 1946, DeQuincy, Louisiana; lives in Cecilia, Louisiana)
Nancy Graves (b. 1939, Pittsfield, Massachusetts; d. 1995, New York)
Mary Grigoriadis (b. 1942, Jersey City, New Jersey; lives in New York)
Diane Itter (b. 1946, Summit, New Jersey; d. 1989, Bloomington, Indiana)
Valerie Jaudon (b. 1945, Greenville, Mississippi; lives in New York and East Hampton, New York)
Jane Kaufman (b. 1938, New York; lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Kingston, New York)
Joyce Kozloff (b. 1942, Somerville, New Jersey; lives in New York)
Robert Kushner (b. 1949, Pasadena, California; lives in New York)
Pat Lasch (b. 1944, New York; lives in New York and Palm Desert, California)
Al Loving (b. 1935, Detroit; d. 2005, New York)
Kim MacConnel (b. 1946, Oklahoma City; lives in Encinitas, California)
Constance Mallinson (b. 1948, Washington, DC; lives in Los Angeles)
Susan Michod (b. 1945, Toledo, Ohio; lives in Chicago)
Ree Morton (b. 1936, Ossining, New York; d. 1977, Chicago)
Judy Pfaff (b. 1946, London; lives in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York)
Howardena Pindell (b. 1943, Philadelphia; lives in New York)
Faith Ringgold (b. 1930, New York; lives in Englewood, New Jersey)
Tony Robbin (b. 1943, Washington, DC; lives in New York and Gilboa, New York)
Sandra Sallin (b. 1940, Los Angeles; lives in Los Angeles)
Lucas Samaras (b. 1936, Kastoria, Greece; lives in New York)
Miriam Schapiro (b. 1923, Toronto; d. 2015, Hampton Bays, New York)
Dee Shapiro (b. 1936, New York; lives in Great Neck, New York)
Kendall Shaw (b. 1924, New Orleans; lives in New York)
Alan Shields (b. 1944, Herrington, Kansas; d. 2005, Shelter Island, New York)
Arlene Slavin (b. 1942, New York; lives in New York)
Sylvia Sleigh (b. 1916, Llandudno, Wales; d. 2010, New York)
Ned Smyth (b. 1948, New York; lives in Shelter Island, New York)
Frank Stella (b. 1936, Malden, Massachusetts; lives in New York)
Franklin Williams (b. 1940, Ogden, Utah; lives in Petaluma, California)
William T. Williams (b. 1942, Cross Creek, North Carolina; lives in New York and Woodbridge, Connecticut)
Betty Woodman (b. 1930, Norwalk, Connecticut; d. 2018, New York)
Takako Yamaguchi (b. 1952, Okayama, Japan; lives in Santa Monica, California)
Robert Zakanitch (b. 1935, Elizabeth, New Jersey; lives in Yonkers, New York)
Barbara Zucker (b. 1940, Philadelphia; lives in New York and Burlington, Vermont)
With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985 is organized by Anna Katz, Curator, with Rebecca Lowery, Assistant Curator, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Lead support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Henry Luce Foundation.
Major support is provided by MOCA Projects Council and the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation.
Additional support is provided by Clinton Hill/Allen Tran Foundation, Helen N. Lewis and Marvin B. Meyer Charitable Fund in Loving Memory of Marvin B. Meyer, and Thomas Solomon and Kimberly Mascola.
Exhibitions at MOCA are supported by the MOCA Fund for Exhibitions with major funding provided by The Offield Family Foundation and generous funding provided by Dr. Alexander and Judith Angerman, Earl and Shirley Greif Foundation, Sydney Holland, founder of the Sydney D. Holland Foundation, Nathalie Marciano and Julie Miyoshi, Steven and Jerri Nagelberg, and Jonathan M. Segal through the Rhonda S. Zinner Foundation.