Pattern and Decoration Revisited at the East Side Galleries

Hosted by

Image Not Available
Kim MacConnel, "Foumban," 1987
Gouache on paper, framed; 17 1/4" x 21 1/4"
Rosamund Felsen Gallery

Rosamund Felsen, who first opened a gallery in 1978, has left her Bergamot Station outpost for the industrial arts zone downtown. It is next door to the new location of CB1, the collector-turned-dealer space of Clyde Beswick, and very near the new location of Cirrus, the gallery of print publisher Jean Milant, who first opened downtown in 1970. An enormous rent increase forced him to move from his 6th and Alameda location with just 30-days notice but he is now in a hub of activity with Night Gallery, Francois Ghebaly Gallery and The Mistake Room within walking distance. A new gallery for the artists collaborative Durden and Ray is across the street. So old-timers join newcomers to add depth and history to the neighborhood.

Image Not Available
Kim MacConnel, "Timboctu," 1987
Cotton flocking and acrylic on canvas, 66 ½" x 103"
Courtesy of Rosamund Felsen Gallery

To inaugurate her light-filled, high-ceilinged space, Felsen shows the 1980’s paintings of Encinitas-based painter Kim MacConnel. MacConnel is associated with a number of painters in a loose knit movement called Pattern and Decoration. Reacting against the reductive and decidedly masculine realm of Minimal and Conceptual art of the 1970’s, these artists, male and female, turned to applied and outsider art, feminine and tribal sources for their inspiration.

Image Not Available
Kim MacConnel, "Avenida Revolución"
Installation view at Rosamund Felsen Gallery
Photo: Grant Mudford

The paintings in this show are all of that, big bold declarations with the shapes of diamonds, circles and waves in snappy colors. Inspired by African textiles and Mexican cut-paper decorations, with flocked surfaces that recall velvet paintings, the series is titled Avenida Revolución. Named for the main drag of Tijuana, so close to MacConnel’s home, it also underscores the subversive intentions of pattern and decoration in abstract painting. The show is on view through May 16.

Image Not Available
Merion Estes, "Momento Mori," 2014
Fabric collage; acrylic and spray paint on fabric 64" x 84"
Courtesy the artist and CB1 Gallery / Photo: Matt Kazmer

Coincidentally, another artist of the same ilk, Merion Estes, shows new work that melds patterns of paint with elements of collage on a grand scale at CB1. At first glance, you will see intertwined, repetitive patterns resembling tapestries but luxurious surface appeal gives way to recognition of the sinister implications of these apocalyptic pictures. The show title? Dystopia. Sharp lines of rain shoot down from a sky arrayed with multiple ghostly moons above a rim of fire in Memento Mori (2014). The sensuous appearance entices us to come to terms with nature’s threatened status. It is on view through May 30.

Image Not Available
Merion Estes, "Neptune's Revenge," 2015
Fabric collage; acrylic and glitter on canvas, 96" x 120"
Courtesy the artist and CB1 Gallery / Photo: Matt Kazmer

Since we are talking about Pattern and Decoration, I need to mention another important pioneer of P+D, Robert Kushner and his works on paper show at Offramp Gallery. Patois, the title of the show, refers to range of languages, the pages of old text, musical scores and so forth on which he has painted flowers and bands of gold leaf. He wanted to collage elements that were not linked to specific times and dates as had been part of the original Modernist intention. The reference to time is fluid but there is no denying that his lengthy pursuit of impactful decoration is not at an end. On view through May 17.

Image Not Available
Robert Kushner, "Ten Red Tulips," 2014
Oil, acrylic, ink and gold leaf on books pages, 12" x 24"
Courtesy Offramp Gallery