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Theorie­s of the Decorative: Abstraction and Ornament in Contemporary Painting

Fabiàn Marcaccio, Ingo Meller, Beatriz Milhazes, David Reed, Phillip Taaffe, Juan Uslé, Leslie Wayne

Curated by Dr David Moos and Paul Nesbitt

October 30 - December 30 1998

Theories of the Decorative

Installation view: "Theories of the Decorative", Inverleith House, 1997. 

Theories of the Decorative

Theories of the Decorative offered an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with seven internationally recognized painters who are at the forefront of abstract painting. Seen together, these artists establish points of reference and departure in their use of decoration and ornament, inspiring awareness not only of painting, but of our world.

Theories of the Decorative grew from an idea that the ‘decorative' could provide a means of rethinking the legacy and the impact of Modernism, in relation to our perception of contemporary art. This exhibition aimed to provoke a rethinking of Modernism by addressing the role and function of ornamentation. The exhibition invited a questioning of what the decorative represents, at an important time for abstract painting. The decorative, as the work of these painters suggests, need no longer be thought of in pejorative terms. Rather, in accordance with the thinking of Matisse, a strong understanding of the decorative concerns, visual experiences of pleasure, and a sheer sensuality that attends the painted object.

This was the first collaboration between the exhibition gallery Inverleith House of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland and the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art. A jointly produced, fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Ulrich Museum Curator of Exhibitions, Dr David Moos, accompanies the exhibition.

Theories of the Decorative was celebrated in the British Press:

"This is post-modern art on a specifically human scale and that leads us to the real importance of this inspired and provocative show." Iain Gale, Scotland on Sunday

"The only significant contemporary art show of the festival." The Guardian

"Theories of the Decorative tackles a number of important questions relating to 20th century art" Giles Sutherland, The Scotsman

Dr David Moos chaired a symposium and artists discussion on Friday, October 31. The panel consisted of visiting artist Beatriz Milhazes (Brazil), David Reed (U.S.A.), Juan Uslé (U.S.A. and Spain), and Leslie Wayne (U.S.A.), and WSU Associate Professor of Twentieth Century Art Dr. Patrick Smith and Diane Thomas Lincoln, Instructor of Decorative and Ornamental Art, WSU.

The exhibition and the accompanying catalogue were generously supported by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Additional funding for the symposium was provided by Robert and Nancy Schwan. Opening reception was sponsored by the Ulrich Museum Alliance and Absolut Vodka.

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