Robert Kushner at DC Moore

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday February 9, 2017

An exhibition of new paintings and collages by Robert Kushner, Portraits & Perennials, opens tonight at DC Moore Gallery. One of the group of Pattern and Decoration [P&D] artists to emerge in the mid-1970s, Kushner has, over the intervening years, deepened and broadened the underpinnings of his highly syncretic work in painting, collage, printmaking, and tapestry. Above: Robert Kushner, Two Old Friends II: Aloe and Agave, 2015; courtesy DC Moore Gallery

Through his travels, Kushner has taken motifs and methods from non-Western decorative arts, such as textiles and carpets from Central Asia, and Japanese folding screens, to create a foundation for his interpretive botanicals. Also, from his work as a carpet restorer for the Artweave Gallery at the start of his career, Kushner has written, the geometric backgrounds that create the foundation of his intensely decorative works are based not on the modernist grid but on the warp and weft of the carpets he repaired. Handling the rare embroidered silk suzanis that the gallery specialized in also prompted a further exploration of Islamic art and design, elements of which can be detected within the backgrounds for the floral motifs that occupy the topmost layers of the works. The critic Amy Goldin, an early champion of P&D, suggested that pattern is found more universally in art than are images; that pattern is to pictorial description as poetry is to prose [more]. This approach to artmaking, which has been Kushner’s signature from the outset, only gets more intensely expressive with time.


Kushner pushes the limits of paint with additions of metallic leaf [gold, silver, copper, palladium] and glitter, and the limits of painting in works composed of segments that often combine to make a single work measuring around 50 feet in width. From the structure of Japanese screens found in dimly lit castles where gold leaf became a crucial element in the lighting scheme, Kushner has developed a way of creating serial panels that combine to form a single, continuous entity. The effect is dizzyingly sensuous—and utterly captivating. Above: Robert Kushner, Tenderness, 2015; courtesy DC Moore Gallery

At times the work’s imagery, created with oil and acrylic paint with gold leaf, evokes Matisse’s botanical cutouts, while their bright, vertical bands of color uncannily call to mind the works of Barnett Newman and Ellsworth Kelly. Reflecting on these fluid interchanges, Kushner wittily muses in the exhibition’s catalogue: “So, are geometry and botany at peace? In dialogue? At each other’s throats? I would like to think that when I am done after working on it for weeks and sometimes months, there is an interesting and intentionally confusing juxtaposition between pure abstraction and linear form—that they each balance one another and create their own tightrope act.”

Robert Kushner, Portraits & Perennials, opens tonight at DC Moore Gallery with a reception for the artist from 6 to 8 pm. 535 West 22nd Street, NY, NY Info Check with the gallery regarding any changes due to the storm: 212.247.2111