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Revisiting the Joy of Pattern and Decoration

With Pleasure’s biggest surprise is “Accordia” (1982), a tall polychrome sculpture by Nancy Graves, who is usually assigned a tentative place in the lineage of American monument makers founded by David Smith. Cast from corrugated cardboard, five Japanese fans, something very like a giant petunia, and other, less identifiable objects, “Acordia” poses, gestures, and eludes every attempt to sum it up and tuck it away in a stylistic compartment. Thus it looks entirely at ease amid the constant border crossings of Pattern and Decoration.

As they embraced the decorative, the ornamental, and even the cosmetic, the artists in this exhibition did not simply dismantle art-world hierarchies. Rooted in exasperation, their art flowered into an affirmation with the power to blur the borders that separate the aesthetic from everything else. Throughout, With Pleasure shows art spilling over, into life. Life is lived in the present and the work in this show has a vitality as fresh now as it was five decades ago.