Patchworks and decorative patterns on the one hand and a political-emancipatory claim on the other – the Pattern and Decoration movement combines apparent contradictions. In the mid-1970s, the movement developed in the USA as one of the last art movements of the 20th century, brought forward by as many female artists as no other movement before. It was supported, among others, by feminist artists such as Joyce Kozloff, Valerie Jaudon, Robert Kushner and Miriam Schapiro.
In reclaiming fantasy, color, variation of forms as well as sensuality, they radically distinguished themselves from the predominant Minimal Art and Concept Art at that time. The movement questions not only traditional notions of art, but also addresses broader political and social issues like the position of women, of Native Americans, or ethnic minorities in the global art scene. Pattern and Decoration represents an alternative to a male-dominated understanding of art that is globally influenced by the values of Western industrial states. The movement’s political and global aspiration is articulated through an aesthetic of captivating ease and seductive beauty: with works that celebrate sensuality, fantasy and color and through which social-critically contents, as well as an immediate lust for life, are conveyed.
The works of this movement have received little attention in Europe so far. The Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen, home to the largest public European collection of Pattern and Decoration artworks, now undertakes a first comprehensive reappraisal and reassessment of the artistic movement through this exhibition and publication project.
The exhibition will present about 65 works that demonstrate the movement’s diversity for the very first time in Europe: the spectrum of artistic forms ranges from mosaics influenced by oriental art, monumental textile collages, paintings, and graphic works through to room-sized installations and video performances. More recent works by Polly Apfelbaum, Christine Streuli, and Rashid Rana, among others, show how the achievements of Pattern and Decoration continue to resonate to this day in terms of both form and content. The movement’s interest in pictorial elements from non-Western art is more topical than ever, especially in light of the rekindled discussion surrounding a “global art history” – a regular subject negotiated at major art shows like documenta. Moving beyond notorious stigma of “ornament as crime” (Adolf Loos, 1908), it becomes clear that despite all their decorative effects, ornaments have always been symbolically important and crucial means for expressing worldviews. To this very day, they still serve artists as a tool to reflect on their own culture and criticize, for instance, political systems, the traditional roles imposed on women, social conventions and expectations.
The publication accompanying the exhibitions will be published in both German and English by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, and provides a comprehensive review of the Pattern and Decoration movement based on extensive new scholarly research. It features contributions by Manuela Ammer, Esther Boehle, Michael Duncan, Holger Otten, and Anne Swartz as well as historical texts by Amy Goldin, Valerie Jaudon/Joyce Kozloff, and Harald Szeemann. Edited by Esther Boehle (Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen) and Manuela Ammer (mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien).
Artists of the exhibition: Polly Apfelbaum, Adriana Czernin, Brad Davis, Frank Faulkner, Tina Girouard, Dan Hays, Valerie Jaudon, Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Kim MacConnel, Rashid Rana, Miriam Schapiro, Kendall Shaw, Christine Streuli, Ned Smyth, Lee Wagstaff, Heike Weber, Robert Zakanitch, Joe Zucker