Offramp Gallery is pleased to present Patois, a solo exhibition of works on paper by New York artist Robert Kushner, from April 12 - May 17, 2015. There will be an opening reception for the artist on Sunday, April 12, from 2-5pm.
There will be a closing reception for Robert Kushner: Patois on Sunday, May 17, 2015 from 2-5pm. At 3pm Quinton Bemiller will lead a walk-thru of the exhibition, along with a talk and slide show about the Pattern & Decoration art movement and Robert Kushner's place in it. Quinton Bemiller is an artist and Assistant Professor of Art at Norco College.
In the more than 40 works in Patois, Kushner juxtaposes broad bands of gold leaf and gestural painted flowers with ephemera -- including ancient texts in myriad languages, as well as musical scores, book covers, end papers, postage stamps and illustrations. He creates an exotic garden woven from many languages that ultimately speaks in one lively, unique voice.
Originally from Pasadena, CA, Robert Kushner is an American contemporary painter who is known especially as a founding member of the Pattern and Decoration artistic movement. Kushner currently lives and works in New York City.
Kushner's work has been exhibited extensively in the United States, Europe, and Japan and has been included in the Whitney Biennial three times and twice at the Biennale in Venice. He was the subject of solo exhibitions at both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum. A mid-career retrospective of his work was organized by the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art.
A monograph on Kushner's three decades of artistic work, Gardens of Earthly Delight, was published by Hudson Hills Press in 1997. Wild Gardens, a selection of Kushner's recent paintings with an essay by Michael Duncan, was published by Pomegranate in 2006. Kushner also edited the publication Amy Goldin: Art in a Hairshirt (Hudson Hills, 2012) to much critical acclaim.
Kushner's works are included in many prominent public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LA: The National Gallery of Art, DC; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, DC; Tate Gallery, London; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu;The Denver Art Museum; Galleria degli Ufizzi, Florence; J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles; Museum Ludwig, St. Petersburg; and The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Robert Kushner, Ten Red Tulips, 2014, oil, acrylic, ink and gold leaf on books pages, 12" x 24"
One of the claims made for collage when it was first introduced by the Cubist painters in 1912 was that it rooted the art works firmly to their present time. By simply reading the stories in the newspaper glued to the canvas, you could know what the news of the world was at the exact moment in time when the collage was made. Since then collage has gone in so many unpredictable directions scooping up realms of both meaning and disjuncture by Dada, Surrealist and Pop artists among others.
But in my personal hierarchy of great collagists, I love to picture Kurt Schwitters strolling the streets of Hannover picking up odd scraps of discarded paper and then weaving them into his transcendent abstract compositions. Or American artist Anne Ryan taking us to silent, still realms with her unique assemblages of paper and cloth. Or Lenore Tawney, creator of visionary poetry through collage, is often looking over my shoulder, even so far as my having inherited pages from some of her favorite 18th Century books.
In many ways I am trying to do the opposite of the Cubists: instead of tying my pieces to one point in time, I want to make them as diffused and confusing as possible. I want the viewer to time travel as broadly as possible. And so I include papers from as many languages, cultures, times, and places as I can which become a part of the content of the work. In all likelihood no one individual could read all the languages in each collage. Instead of concrete cognition we arrive at a mist of unknowing.
At the beginning of this series, I wanted the texts and images to be neutral. I was not very concerned with exact content. Rather I wanted their age and exoticism of the papers to create a kind of nostalgic ambiance, not to evoke any one time in particular, but to connote “other”. Gradually, I have come to be more autobiographical with the materials. I have started to include pieces of ephemera that meant something to me, that marked significant places or events alongside found texts the content of which I had no grasp.
I enjoy juxtaposing illustrations and diagrams from the 1914 Encyclopedia Britannica, postage stamps that I saved as a teen ager, but never got around to pasting into my stamp album, pages from 19th Century lady’s magazines, dictionaries, music, Japanese woodblock books.
Nearly all these precious pieces of paper used in these works are slightly extraneous in one way or another. Some are in languages most of us cannot read. Some are popular songs that will rarely be sung again. There are currencies no longer in use. Legal documents from countries that no longer exist. Or century old diagrams of technological advances that today read as quaint. In the end each scrap is beautiful to me. These diverse facts become a sea of untold and irrecoverable stories upon which a single flower hovers.
Robert Kushner, January 2015
Robert Kushner, Purple Anemone, 2014, oil, ink, acrylic and gold leaf on joined book pages, 30 x 22 inches