One of the founders of the pattern and decoration movement in painting, Robert Kushner combines organic elements with abstracted geometric forms to create works that celebrate surface. He draws from a broad spectrum of artistic and historical movements: fabric design, fashion, and couture; oriental rugs, kimono patterns, and Japanese screen painting; Renaissance masques, symbolist music, and opera. While Western artists throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries found inspiration in Islamic and Far Eastern cultures, Kushner rejected the concepts of “exoticism” and “primitivism” often cited in contrast with European styles. Instead, he responded to the long-standing sophistication of Eastern knowledge, innovation, and spirituality.
The paintings on display in this exhibition span nearly a decade of work: Huntington Library Cactus Garden II, 2014; Chrysanthemum and Sunflower, 2010; and Spring Scatter Summation, 2005. A painting by Kushner in the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum’s collection, also titled Sunflower, dates to the early 1990s and is on display in the Resource Room alongside five additional works on paper. Representations of flowers have long been of interest to the artist; his work segues effortlessly from glittery, overblown blooms on canvas to modest depictions on antique book pages. Kushner has said, “I never get tired of pursuing new ideas in the realm of ornamentation… Decoration has always had its own agenda, the sincere and unabashed offering of pleasure and solace.”
Robert Kushner received his B.A. in visual arts with honors from the University of California at San Diego in 1971. A native of Pasadena, California, Kushner currently lives and works in New York City. His work has been exhibited extensively in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Solo exhibitions have taken place at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum. Kushner features in the public collections of The Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Philadelphia Museum of Art; The National Gallery of Art, DC; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, DC; J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Denver Art Museum; Tate Gallery, London; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; Galleria degli Ufizzi, Florence; and Museum Ludwig, St. Petersburg. Publications on Kushner’s work include the monograph Gardens of Earthly Delight (Hudson Hills Press, 1997) and Wild Gardens (Pomegranate, 2006). Works featured in this exhibition are on loan from DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY. Robert Kushner: Pleasure and Solace is organized by the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum. Exhibit through September 12. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from Noon-5 pm, with extended evening hours on Thursday until 8 pm.