Dogma | Dugma

February 28, 2012

This morning while thinking in Hebrew, I noticed that the Hebrew/Aramaic word for pattern DUGMA, is almost identical to the Latin loan word DOGMA.

In November, I had the honor of meeting with Robert Zakanovitch, one of the founders of the Pattern and Decoration movement in the 1980s. We had a wonderful discussion about the various crises that Modern painting has gone through, beginning with the abstraction of figures and of observation, through the pure formalism of placing pigment on canvas with great virtuosity as was valued in the 1950s. This process of elimination, led to what many would consider to be a dead end in painting: Conceptual art, in which even the pigment is eliminated.

A love of pattern is innate in all human cultures. Creating repetitive ornament has been the most common form of visual creativity for thousands of years. Yet sometime in the Renaissance ornament fell out of favor in European art, and gradually became relegated to the lower level of handicrafts, and even worse, to be considered merely “women’s work.”

The Pattern and Decoration movement was dominated by women, more specifically Jewish women. Battling for their feminist agenda was not enough. They also had to battle with the current artistic dogmas: The very “pithy” and deliberately exclusive art establishment viewed anything “pretty” as being vulgar.

Yet “Prettiness” is not any more vulgar or simplistic, than let’s say the color blue is. Blue inspires a whole range of emotions, and when contrasted with other colors, blue can enlighten or blur new awareness. Blue can be brilliant or banal, depending upon the context. So too with visual beauty.

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