Pattern & Decoration: A Little Known Art Movement

What is it about those of us who like to include a ton STUFF in their work? I began to investigate this phenomenon in grad school and discovered an art movement that even my professors had never heard of before-Pattern & Decoration or P&D for short.

I do admire artists who can say a lot with a little, however, I have to admit, I’m just not one of them. My confession of the day is…I like a lot of stuff (or shtuff, as I like to say) in my work: images, layers, materials, colors, patterns, processes. Sometimes I think it’s a bit too much and critics of my past often said this was so…but I like to ignore critics and did so then. Over the years I entertained the notion of paring down, simplifying, only to soon after add back in that which I had taken out. What is it about those of us who like to include a ton shtuff in their work? I began to investigate this phenomenon in grad school and discovered an art movement that even my professors had never heard of before-Pattern & Decoration or P&D for short.

P&D artists practiced Maximalism, a term that basically describes extremes and can be applied to anything in life and to any type of industry. In art, it is an extreme use of color, movement, pattern, repetition, an all-out explosion of shtuff! Both P&D and maximalism arose in the early 70’s as an answer to minimalism and its austere, almost restrictive practices. P&D paintings lean toward the decorative, with elaborate compositions of flowers, ornament and swirls, the use of collaged fabrics, glitter, decoupage and gold leaf. It’s for this reason that the P&D movement itself is generally thought of as feminine or craft driven, although a good number of artists were male and all artists were mostly painters. The movement itself was relatively short-lived, lasting only about a decade, yet many of the artists associated with it are well known, some still creating interesting work today. A few of my favorites include, Miriam Shapiro, Joyce Kozloff and Robert Kushner (all pictured in that order in the gallery below).

To my delight, P&D has come out of obscurity within the last year, with four shows in major institutions celebrating this movement. Further, if you look at any contemporary painting gallery today, you’ll see at least one artist whose work could be described as maximalism and has likely been influence by P&D. P&D is alive and well in my studio and in many of yours, I’m sure. To those of you who are holding back, I say MAX OUT, give it all you’ve got…life is short, my friends. Check out the gallery below for inspiration and if you need more, please visit my Pinterest board, Painting: Pattern.

Author: lorraineglessner

I'm a mixed media artist, workshop instructor and former assistant professor at tyler school of art in Philadelphia, PA.

2 thoughts on “Pattern & Decoration: A Little Known Art Movement”

  1. Thank you for this so very timely post. I love my shtuff too . Beautiful examples Janet

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