Pattern & Decoration: A movement that still has legs

Pattern & Decoration: A movement that still has legs

What is art history made of? Everything that happened within a given period, location or style? Or is it just the best of what happened? These questions form an eternal opposition between inclusiveness and quality. They crop up — and sometimes openly conflict — in “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art, 1972-85,” a rich, if flawed survey at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College. In the mid-1970s, the irreverent upstart movement Pattern and Decoration, or P&D, was one of the first cracks in the Minimalism-Conceptualism hegemony. The other was “New Image Painting,” an abstraction-tinged figuration named for its exhibition at the Whitney in 1978. But New Image never really cohered. In contrast P&D, at least for a while, was something of an onslaught. It favored patterns appropriated from a global array of textiles, ceramics and architecture but also from previously disregarded Americana like quilting, embroidery and cake decoration. A self-
What is art history made of? Everything that happened within a given period, location or style? Or is it just the best of what happened? These questions form an eternal opposition between inclusiveness and quality. They crop up — and sometimes openly conflict — in “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art, 1972-85,” a rich, if flawed survey at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College. In the mid-1970s, the irreverent upstart movement Pattern and Decoration, or P&D, was one of the first cracks in the Minimalism-Conceptualism hegemony. The other was “New Image Painting,” an abstraction-tinged figuration named for its exhibition at the Whitney in 1978. But New Image never really cohered. In contrast P&D, at least for a while, was something of an onslaught. It favored patterns appropriated from a global array of textiles, ceramics and architecture but also from previously disregarded Americana like quilting, embroidery and cake decoration. A self-