Exhibit News: "Less Is a Bore" at ICA, Boston

On view at ICA, Boston: Robert Zakanitch, “Big Bungalow Series III,” 1992, Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 30 ft. © Robert Zakantich, courtesy Artist Estate Studio, LLC

Less Is A Bore: Maximalist Art & Design

ICA, Boston

Jun 26-Sep 22, 2019

Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design brings together works in painting, sculpture, ceramic, dance, furniture design, and more that privilege decoration, pattern, and maximalism.

Borrowing its attitude from architect Robert Venturi’s witty retort to Mies van der Rohe’s modernist edict “less is more,” Less Is a Bore shows how artists, including those affiliated with the Pattern & Decoration movement of the 1970s, have sought to rattle the dominance of modernism and minimalism. Encouraged by the pluralism permeating many cultural spheres at the time, these artists accommodated new ideas, modes, and materials, challenging entrenched categories that marginalized non-Western art, fashion, interior design, and applied art.

How artists have used ornamentation to transform craft and design, feminism, queerness and gender, beauty and taste, camouflage and masquerade, and multiculturalism and globalism.

The exhibition considers how artists have used ornamentation, pattern painting, and other decorative modes to critique, subvert, and transform accepted histories related to craft and design, feminism, queerness and gender, beauty and taste, camouflage and masquerade, and multiculturalism and globalism. More recent artworks in the exhibition chart both the legacy and transformation of these trajectories.

Spanning generations, geographies, and traditions, Less Is a Bore includes works ranging from experiments in patterning by Sanford Biggers, Jasper Johns, and Miriam Schapiro to the transgressive sculpture and furniture of Lucas Samaras and Ettore Sottsass, to the installations of Polly Apfelbaum, Nathalie du Pasquier, and Virgil Marti.  Also included are works by Roger Brown, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Jeffrey Gibson, Valerie Jaudon, Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, Ellen Lesperance, Sol LeWitt, Howardena Pindell, Lari Pittman, Pae White, Betty Woodman, and Robert Zakantich among others. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication with essays by Elissa Auther, Amy Goldin, and Jenelle Porter.

Exhibit News: "Pattern, Decoration & Crime" travels to Le Consortium

Install View at MAMCO featuring “Elephant Rose” by Robert Zakantich (left). Photo: Annik Wetter

Install View at MAMCO featuring “Elephant Rose” by Robert Zakantich (left). Photo: Annik Wetter

Pattern, Crime & Decoration

May 16 - Oct 20, 2019

Consortium Museum
37, rue de Longvic 21000

This exhibition is a joint collaboration with Lionel Bovier and the MAMCO in Geneva, where it was presented from Oct. 10, 2018 to Feb. 03, 2019.

Pattern, Crime & Decoration features the groundbreaking, artist-led American art movement Pattern & Decoration, which started in the mid-1970s and lasted until the mid-1980s. Often viewed as the last organized art movement of the 20th century, it chronologically straddles the end of modernism and the beginning of postmodernism, through its rejection of the rigid tenets of formalism and its embrace of decorative motifs and non-Western visual forms. Strongly grounded in feminism, it included many women artists and sought to highlight some kinds of arts and crafts often dismissed as belonging to the domestic or decorative sphere such as tapestry, quilting, wallpaper or embroidery.

Against the purist, prescriptive background of the dominant art forms of their time such as Minimalism and Conceptualism, Pattern & Decoration signaled the end of the reductivist arc of formalist modernism and the beginning of a new era, by freely and subversively borrowing from the formal vocabulary of Islamic art, Mexican and Indian cultures, or Roman and Byzantine mosaics, diverting the rigidity of the minimalist grid to create repeated patterns that boldly emphasized figurative tropes, bright colors, flowering outlines and arabesques. The movement, gathered around the writings of art critic Amy Goldin (1926-1978), was supported by art dealers Holly Solomon in New York and Bruno Bischofberger in Switzerland. Although Pattern & Decoration was critically and commercially successful at its inception, it faded from view after the 1980s.

In retrospect, it can now be viewed as a forerunner for many art currents that followed, with its use of deconstructed, loose shapes, interest in non-Western art, dazzling colors and mixed patterns used to reject the patriarchal, Eurocentric framework of modernism as embodied in Adolf Loos’s 1910 essay Ornament and Crime.

In this exhibition at the Consortium Museum, artists from the Pattern & Decoration movement are presented alongside forerunners like George Sugarman (1912-1999), an artist best-known for his colorful sculptures that at the time of their making escaped all categorization, “neither Pop nor Minimal” but were rather “maximalists” and which, in their refusal to conform to a prevailing type of art in the 1960s and 1970s anticipated the state of mind at the root of the Pattern & Decoration movement; as well as American and European artists from the same era whose work shares similar formal concerns, such as Lynda Benglis, Alan Shields, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Claude Viallat or Simon Hantaï.

Artworks by Valerie Jaudon (b. 1945), Tony Robbin (b. 1943), Joyce Kozloff (b. 1942), Simon Hantaï (1922-2008), Joe Zucker (b. 1941), Mario Yrisarry (b. 1933), George Woodman (1932-2017) and Richard Kalina (b. 1946) examine the function of patterns in their repetition, deviations and repartition on a grid, which builds on the same formal organization principles as Minimalism but depart from the latter’s austere theoretical severity by following the influence of Non-Western arts and most specifically textile arts.

Pieces by Miriam Schapiro (1923-2015), Cynthia Carlson (b. 1942), Tina Girouard (b. 1946), Alan Shields (1944-2005), Robert Zakanitch (b. 1935), Claude Viallat (b. 1936) and Alvin D. Loving (1935-2005) share a common ground when recalling or being obviously inspired by quilting techniques––a traditional kind of vernacular, feminine craft—or by embroidery and sewing, and challenge formal considerations associated with modernism such as the flatness of painting by producing hybrid creations: cut-out backgrounds, fabrics hanging from the ceiling, and visual disruptions by juxtaposing various patterns. 

Other works display exuberant colors and formal compositions, whose exploration of decorative motifs recalls the importance of Henri Matisse and most specifically his famed paper cutouts, with Robert Kushner (b. 1949), Kim MacConnel (b. 1946), Betty Woodman (b. 1930), Brad Davis (b. 1942) and Marc Camille Chaimowicz (b. 1947) whose more recent work reactivates the legacy of Pattern & Decoration within the exhibition.

Other artworks are marked by opulence, baroque, glitter, and immersive spaces with Rodney Ripps (b. 1950), Ned Smyth (b. 1948), Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt (b. 1948), Lynda Benglis (b. 1941) and Jennifer Cecere (b. 1950), with lush installations and pieces displaying colorful, ethereal fabrics and objects based on elements such as dollies and fans covered with ornamental motifs and patterns in saturated colors.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalog with previously unpublished archival material.

Exhibit News: "Pattern, Decoration & Crime" at MAMCO Geneva

Robert Zakanitch,  Elephant rose,  1977-78, Acrylic on canvas, 97 x 139 in. (246 x 353 cm)

Robert Zakanitch, Elephant rose, 1977-78, Acrylic on canvas, 97 x 139 in. (246 x 353 cm)

Pattern, Decoration & Crime

10.10.18 - 2.3.19

Geneva, Switzerland

MAMCO examines in this large group exhibition the “Pattern & Decoration” movement, formed in the 1970s and that enjoyed international success in the 1980s, before fading in the decades thereafter. 

Most of the artists involved were reacting against the dominance of abstract schools in the post-War era, with a particular opposition to Minimal and Conceptual art. They also critiqued the pervasive dominance of Western art and male artists in the context of modernism as a whole. Including an equal number of men and women, the group organized around “pattern and decoration” reconnected with what was widely perceived as “minor” art forms and asserted decoration as the true repressed of modernity. 

Referencing ornamental motifs on wallpaper, patchwork quilts, or printed fabrics, the movement opened up Western art of the time to eclectic sources of inspiration: from Islamic decorative art, Byzantine and Mexican mosaics, to Turkish embroidery and Japanese prints, Indian rugs and Iranian miniatures. By creating works that blurred the boundaries between traditional paintings and decorative art objects, the movement’s artists—men and women alike—defined their position at the intersection between artistic disciplines, spearheading a critique of the traditional demarcation between the “fine” and “applied” arts. Finally, by reviving interest in long-undervalued crafts and asserting the right to bring these techniques out of the domestic sphere and into the public world of art, they held much in common with the Feminist art movement of the 1970s.

“Pattern & Decoration” is justly viewed as an overlooked movement, but it served nonetheless as a springboard for a number of contemporary practices: taking an essentially historical approach, the exhibition aims to re-evaluate the movement and reassess its contribution in light of contemporary art today.   

Essentially American, the “Pattern & Decoration” movement was supported by gallerists Holly Solomon in New York and Bruno Bischofberger in Switzerland, and was first formed by Valerie Jaudon, Tina Girouard, Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, Kim MacConnel, Tony Robbin, Miriam Schapiro, Ned Smyth, Mario Yrisarry, and Robert Zakanitch, quickly joined by Cynthia Carlson, Brad Davis, Richard Kalina, and Jane Kaufman, and enlarging later to Rodney Ripps, Betty Woodman, George Woodman, and Joe Zucker.

MAMCO’s exhibition, co-organized with the Consortium in Dijon, also includes several pieces by artists associated with the Supports/Surfaces group, Noël Dolla and Claude Viallat, whose work has been widely revisited and reconsidered in recent years, together with works by Lynda Benglis, Jennifer Cecere, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Sam Gilliam, Simon Hantaï, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Alvin D. Loving, Alan Shields, and George Sugarman.

  • Exhibition organized by Lionel Bovier, Franck Gautherot, and Seungduk Kim, in collaboration with Le Consortium, Dijon

  • The exhibition benefits from an United Way Worldwide Grant on behalf of the generosity of Soros Fund Charitable Foundation

Zakanitch works exhibited: Elephant Rose (1977-1978), Purple Braid (1978)

Exhibit News: "Ornament as Promise" at Ludwig Forum Aachen

Robert Zakanitch, "Blue Hound," 1978, Acrylic on canvas, 70-5/8 x 118-1/8 in. (180 x 300 cm) Collection Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen

Robert Zakanitch, "Blue Hound," 1978, Acrylic on canvas, 70-5/8 x 118-1/8 in. (180 x 300 cm) Collection Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen

Pattern and Decoration

Ornament as Promise


Opening: Thursday, September 20, 2018, 7 pm

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, in which the participation of women was as prominent as never before. The movement was supported among others by feminist artists, such as Joyce Kozloff, Valerie Jaudon, Robert Kushner and Miriam Schapiro. In reclaiming fantasy, color, variations 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 a counter project 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 for International Art 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 planned exhibition will present about 80 works altogether, showing the movement in all its 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 renewed discussion surrounding a “global art history” – a regular subject in major art shows like the documenta. If one moves beyond the notorious stigma of “ornament as crime” (Adolf Loos, 1908), it becomes easy to recognize that despite all their decorative effects, ornaments have always been symbolically important and crucial for expressing worldviews. To this very day, they still serve artists as a means to reflect on their own culture and criticize, for instance, political systems, the traditional roles imposed on women, social conventions and expectations.

After Aachen, the exhibition will travel to the mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, one of the main hubs of the art nouveau movement and thus of the ornament.

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 for International Art Aachen) and Manuela Ammer (mumok – Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig Vienna).

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

Curator: Esther Boehle

Curatorial assistant: Denise Petzold

Supporters: With generous support of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art, Stiftung der Sparda-Bank West

Pattern and Decoration. Ornament as Promise was initiated by the Ludwig Forum Aachen and implemented in corporation with the mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien.

Exhibit News: Robert Zakanitch at Hudson River Museum


For 50 years Robert Zakanitch has explored color, line, and form with acrylic, watercolor, and gouache in artworks that are as ravishing as they are witty. Though his imagery varies—from abstract decoration to birds, angels, even author Jane Austen—Zakanitch has turned, again and again, to the shape and color of flowers to project these painterly motivations. In the mid-1970s, he became one of the founders of the Pattern and Decoration movement, a form of art inspired by graceful patterns of home furnishings traditionally associated with femininity. Rather than “art for art’s sake” that guided many artists from the late 19th century through 1960s Minimalism, Zakanitch embraced pattern for pattern’s sake while never losing sight of the fact that he was creating a painterly work of art.

Garden of Ornament focuses on Zakanitch’s shift from strict patterning to looking to the real world for inspiration, as witnessed in his monumental 1980s Platter series: “I started doing paintings that were influenced by the linoleum floors we had as kids—these big roses, and mostly flowers, and all these curlicues. I wanted to go in just the opposite direction of ‘less is more.’” Other paintings reveal his desire to convey the qualities of nurturing and civility through the decoration of objects associated with the home.

Exhibition News: Robert Zakanitch at Nancy Hoffman Gallery

Robert Zakanitch, "The Opal Mist, 2015, gouache on paper, 18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm)

Robert Zakanitch at Nancy Hoffman Gallery

“In the Garden of the Moon”

January 28—March 5, 2016

On January 28, an exhibition of new work by Robert Zakanitch opens at Nancy Hoffman Gallery.  Entitled “In the Garden of the Moon,” the show includes large and small gouache paintings on paper, inspired by the magic and romance of the night.  The show continues through March 5, and is a celebration of the Pomegranate publication “Robert Rahway Zakanitch,” the first monograph on the artist, tracing his evolution from the ‘70s as the strongest voice in the Pattern and Decoration movement, to the work of today.  A book signing event will be held at the gallery on January 28 from 6 to 8.

“I want to bring romance back into painting, and in this series the timeless enchantment of the moon and the night.  Night vividly reveals the immensity, that we are all part of, with stars, galaxies, and universes flowing flawlessly—all inter-related.” - Robert Zakanitch

Following his lush “Hanging Gardens” series inspired by the gardens of Babylon, Zakanitch embarked on an entirely new body of work.  During the three years he painted the “hanging gardens,” the artist moved from his long-term Brooklyn home and studio to Yonkers, where he now lives facing a garden with a view of the night sky, stars, and moon.  Nature is at his front door and permeates his home and studio.  A floor to ceiling studio window is filled with light in the day facing the Phillipse Manor garden, and filled with the mysteries of the night as the sun sets and darkness descends over the town. These are not “representational” paintings of the night; these are visionary interpretations of the sensation of night, night light, with different deep blues, loons and owls, and golden fish.  The moon and clouds are primary players in the drama that unfolds in each painting, one of the most dramatic works being “Over the Clouds” in which the profusion of stars and galaxies, and sparkling constellations occupy the entire top half of the work, balanced by hovering vaporous clouds below.

Trying to grasp the immensity of the universe in painting, Zakanitch creates poetry and music in gouache.  These are stylized paintings, perhaps owing a small debt to Chinese, Japanese or Russian painting, and maybe even illuminated manuscripts, not to mention 1945 Armstrong linoleum.  Zakanitch’s stylization is part of his on-going vocabulary and commitment to ornamentation as language.  His love of ornamentation shimmers in pearl-like borders.  The invented patterns at the bottom of each painting function as “anchors,” and remind us how beautiful the gesture of mark making can be.

“In the Garden of the Moon” Zakanitch dares to bring back romance in “moonscapes,” that are not simply landscapes, but mindscapes about light.  Gouache is never used in heroic scale, rarely is the viewer privileged to feel the artist’s hand as it is felt in this series.  These are paintings about “beauty and sumptuousness and life force, about the beautiful music of humanity,” as the artist says.  This is a new era for the artist, an era of luminosity and visual poetry addressing the immensity of the universe and man’s relationship to it.

Robert Zakanitch’s work has been shown at Arizona State University, Tempe; California Center for the Arts, Escondido; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California; Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman; The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas; Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, New York; University of Nebraska, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Palm Desert Museum, Palm Springs, California; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and abroad at Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid; Fondation du Chateau de Jau, Case de Pene, France; Galleries Alexandra Monett, Brussels; Galleries FIX des Muses de Nice, France; Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal; Kunstforeningen Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark; Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, Switzerland; Modern Art Museum, Munich, Germany; Museo Tamayo, Mexico; Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany; U.S. Pavilion, 39th Biennial, Venice, Italy; Wurttembergisch Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany.

His work is included in the collections of Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo, New York; The Art Museum, Princeton University, New Jersey; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Denver Art Museum, Colorado; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin; Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and abroad in Musée de Strasbourg, France;  Musée regional d’art contemporain, Languedoc-Roussillon, France; Osaka Museum, Japan; and The Tate, London.

He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Grant.

The artist resides in New York.

Installation: Robert Zakanitch "Garden of the Moon" at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, new York

Review: Hanging Gardens at Nancy Hoffman Gallery

Installation shot of Robert Zakanitch: Hanging Gardens at Nancy Hoffman Gallery showing  Wisteria II  and (distance)  Fireglow  from the series. Courtesy of Nancy Hoffman Gallery

Installation shot of Robert Zakanitch: Hanging Gardens at Nancy Hoffman Gallery showing Wisteria II and (distance) Fireglow from the series. Courtesy of Nancy Hoffman Gallery

Daring to be Beautiful: Robert Zakanitch at Nancy Hoffman

by Aimée Brown Price


Robert Zakanitch: Hanging Gardens at Nancy Hoffman Gallery

May 9 to June 15, 2013
520 West 27th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues
New York City, 212-966-6676

“Glorious” was a word heard frequently at Robert Zakanitch’s opening in response to his unexpectedly large (eight by five feet) gouaches on paper hangings that suit his imagery so magnificently: great expanses of often small budding blossoms, curtains of pale wisterias in full bloom, bittersweet, and glowing dandelion puffs–or maybe fireflies, willfully indeterminate in bursts of light.  If Beauty (with an upper case `B’) has gone out of style, no one told this artist, a longtime proponent of such traditionally and immediately appealing subjects — lace, jewels, cherubs, sunset landscapes, and now gardens — bypassed, if not scoffed at, in recent decades. But John DeFazio, in a fine catalogue essay, actually thanks Zakanitch for “daring” to be gentle, sweet, and pretty.   Perhaps we’ve come around to understanding that beauty is no longer déclassé.

The series, named after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, wonder of the Ancient World, exudes a mythic quality in the evocative and irreal proliferation of plants removed from materiality by his blanched colors, flattening of form, and wonderfully rhythmic and decorative flowery festoons.  The delicacy of his petalled plants answer to the matte, chalky colors that serve them.  Their fragility is enhanced by the painting technique and the medium itself, with luminosity glanced in the interstices among the abundant blooms.  While entirely authentic and superbly observed, not for a moment are these florid items realistic.


Robert Zakanitch, Hanging Gardens Series (Wisteria II), 2011-12. Gouache and colored pencil on paper, 96 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Nancy Hoffman Gallery

These exhilarating compositions are often topped by decorative grids or by ornamental arabesques of bordering trellises, with the lower portions left contrastingly unfinished.  Drips of paint accentuate the lusciousness of these images.  Though the artist is in absolute command of his medium, there is an insistent lack of pretentiousness, most obvious, perhaps, in the almost offhand, contour-lined lattices or the occasional bit of writing, as in his simple, slanting signature.  That the viewer is allowed to see the transformation as strokes and dribbles of paint metamorphose into ravishing flora imagery seems like one more gift from this generous artist.

The overall rhythmic patterns of the lush carpets of flowers give way to enormous variety when further examined.  Buds are at different stages of opening, their sizes and tonalities varying.  Some petals are flush with pale pinks or lilacs while others are awash with transparency.  One flower droops or is somewhat turned, clusters are more or less tight. Zakanitch was one of the founders of Pattern and Decoration in the 1970s which accounts perhaps  for the importance of repeated flat design to his work.  But P&D is a reductive and therefore not very astute term in relation to Zakanitch, failing to take into account just how painterly his surfaces are, and never simply homogenized.  The tender, sometimes impish wit presented in his variations recall Dutch seventeenth-century still life painting: careful looking is rewarded by the discovery that the cascades of flowers are very much alive, abuzz with small insects, tiny lady bugs among them.  Meanwhile there may be a silhouetted misty bird hovering nearby. The work holds attention and is sumptuously satisfying at differing viewing distances.  This is true, as well, of the small gouaches also included in the show that yield their own extravagant pleasure.   Happily, the commendable exhibition catalogue acknowledges the importance of seeing works both as a whole and in detail by reproducing close-ups at several different degrees.

Robert Zakanitch, without pretentiousness or folderol, truly goes to bat for beauty.