Since participating in the early years of the Pattern and Decoration Movement in the 1970s, Robert Kushner has continued to address controversial issues involving decoration. Kushner draws from a unique range of influences, including Islamic and European textiles, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Demuth, Pierre Bonnard, Tawaraya Sotatsu, Ito Jakuchu, Qi Baishi, and Wu Changshuo. Kushner’s work combines organic representational elements with abstracted geometric forms in a way that is both decorative and modernist. He has said, “I never get tired of pursuing new ideas in the realm of ornamentation. Decoration, an abjectly pejorative dismissal for many, is a very big, somewhat defiant declaration for me. … The eye can wander, the mind think unencumbered through visual realms that are expansively and emotionally rich. Decoration has always had its own agenda, the sincere and unabashed offering of pleasure and solace.”
Kushner’s most recent installation, Scriptorium: Devout Exercises of the Heart, is a group of over one thousand drawings of flowers and plants on book pages that date from 1500 to 1920. The pages have been removed from vintage books of all types from around the world. In 2010, Scriptorium was exhibited in Desire at The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. It then traveled to the Kunsthallen Brandts in Odense, Denmark before returning to the U.S. for the inaugural exhibition at DC Moore Gallery’s new Chelsea location in 2011. In 2012, it was exhibited at the La Jolla Athenaeum in California.
Kushner has also created large-scale murals for public and private spaces. In 2004, he installed two monumental mosaic murals, 4 Seasons Seasoned, at the 77th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station. He has also completed commissions at Gramercy Tavern and Maialino restaurants in New York City, Union Square in Tokyo, The Ritz Carlton Highlands in Lake Tahoe, CA, and Federal Reserve System in Washington, DC. Recently, an eighty-foot-long marble mosaic, Welcome, was installed at the new Raleigh Durham International Airport in North Carolina.
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; 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.
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