To Fight for the Poor with My Pen: Zoe Anderson Norris, Queen of Bohemia March 2 – May 13, 2023
To Fight for the Poor with My Pen: Zoe Anderson Norris, Queen of Bohemia March 2 – May 13, 2023
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Mesmerizing Contemporary Paper Arts at the Grolier Club NYC

Pattern and Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper, 1960s to 2000s On View January 18 – April 8, 2023

NEW YORK CITY – The Grolier Club in New York City — America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles — will celebrate visionary contemporary American artists who revolutionized and re-energized the creative legacy of paper arts. Pattern and Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper, 1960s to 2000s tells the story of 53 imaginative and innovative artists who, working independently and together, revived the largely forgotten arts of marbled and paste paper design. On view from January 18 through April 8, 2023 in the Grolier Club’s ground floor gallery, the exhibition is curated by Mindell Dubansky, Museum Librarian for Preservation at the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pattern and Flow features a decade-by-decade look at the field through 150 objects from the Watson Library’s Paper Legacy Project collection, which documents the work and histories of American decorative paper artists active from the late 1960s to the present. The designs created by these grassroots pioneers and their followers take traditional art forms to new, expressive dimensions—some works are somber, with muted tones and subtle coloration, others are explosive in their use of color, hypnotizing ripples and wave patterns, or tessellated decorations. The colors and shapes allude to the seasons, the sea, geologic formations, and cosmic imaginings, or demonstrate pure and non-allusive abstraction. Decorated papers will be shown in context with rare books, objects, color recipe books, correspondence, photographs, and hand-tools used by the featured artists. An accompanying monograph is published by the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Met and distributed by Yale University Press.

“It’s difficult to imagine a more masterful, persevering, and humble group of artists than those represented in the Paper Legacy Collection,” said Mindell Dubansky. “Motivated by the wonders of nature, the joy of color, and technical challenges, they have cumulatively and quietly brought unexplainable beauty to the public for decades. The chief motivation for this exhibition has been to preserve the work, methods, and stories for generations to come.”

Exhibition Highlights



Historic works on view in Pattern and Flow include some of the earliest marbling treatises which inspired and instructed many of the artists, including Charles W. Woolnough’s The whole art of marbling (London: G. Bell, 1881), and an 1812 book with a marbled paper cover made by the Mann Family of Dedham, Mass., which operated a printing and publishing company (active 1810-1850). Mann marbling activity was critical to the survival of the craft to mid-century, when the commercialization of printing created new demand for decorated paper.

John Coventry (1943), active 1971-. Fab Book, c. 1971-1975. Manuscript album bound in marbled cloth, containing photographs, typescript, drawings, paintings, 11 x 8 ½ x 2 ½ in. (27.9 x 21.6 x6.4 cm). Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John Coventry. Photograph: Thomas J. Watson Library
John Coventry (1943), active 1971-. Fab Book, c. 1971-1975. Manuscript album bound in marbled cloth, containing photographs, typescript, drawings, paintings, 11 x 8 ½ x 2 ½ in. (27.9 x 21.6 x6.4 cm). Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John Coventry. Photograph: Thomas J. Watson Library

Self-taught marbler Olaf (b. 1940) worked with John Coventry (b. 1943) in Berkeley, California in the 1970s, using a tank made from the inverted roof of a Volkswagen bus. Olaf’s patterned papers on view resemble microscopic organisms, such as the vivid Purple Monochromatical Monomaniacal Merry-Go-Round (1990), achieved with oil-based paints with solvents. Also on view is The Fab Book (c. 1971-75), a counterculture artifact documenting Coventry’s alchemical experiments with marbling and his philosophies about marbling’s relation to natural phenomena, such as wave motion and the cosmos.

An iconic marbled object on view in Pattern and Flow will be familiar to many: the original marbled Kleenex box (c. 1987) and its matching paper (c. late 1980s), made by Faith Harrison (b. 1950). The “Classic Foil” tissue box and iterations of it have been a staple in American homes since the 1980s, but the commission was controversial among marblers, as Harrison was not sufficiently remunerated for the use of her design. Self-taught marbler Galen Berry (b. 1952) created Dragons in the Sky (undated), a marbled paper featuring a fantasy moiré pattern that is enlivened by Berry’s unique color palette of vivid oranges, reds, and yellows over a blue background.

More recent highlights on view include Swoon (2017) by Regina St. John (b. 1944), a brilliantly rainbow-colored work patterned with vertical and horizontal zigzags; Alluvial Fan (2017), a paste paper by Madeleine McEvilly Durham (b. 1959), that is inspired by New Mexico’s desert landscape; and Daisy Garden (c. 2015) by Robert Wu (b. 1979), a multi-layered marbled paper that evokes a fantastical flower garden.

Publication

The accompanying monograph, Pattern and Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper, 1960s to 2000s by Mindell Dubansky with an introduction by Sidney E. Berger, is published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Thomas J. Watson Library and distributed by Yale University Press. The book begins by outlining the history of decorated paper arts in America up to the 1960s, followed by a chronological narrative, which surveys the development of the field and introduces the artists working from the 1960s to the 2000s, and an illustrated reference section with essential biographical and professional information for each artist. Designed to be an immersive experience, the book conveys the vivid visual world of American decorated paper, celebrating the variety and variations that are key features of the art form. The book is available from Yale University Press and at The Met Store. (196 Pages, 10.10 x 10.60 in, 280 color illus. ISBN 9780300266191. Hardcover $65.)

Programming

The Grolier Club will host related public programs, including a full-day symposium on decorated papers on Friday, March 24, which will be live-streamed; a virtual exhibition tour and Q&A with curator Mindell Dubansky on Wednesday, April 5 at 6 pm; and lunchtime exhibition tours, conducted by Dubansky, on January 27, February 7, February 21, March 7, March 21, and April 4, all from 1-2 pm. More details can be found at http://grolierclub.eventbrite.com.

On view at The Met from January 5 through April 18, 2023, Decorated Paper: A Selection of Publications in Watson Library presents a selection of treasures from the library’s collection including artist’s works, classic texts, trade catalogs and artists’ books that teach us about contemporary and historical decorated paper methods, such as paste paper and the many methods of marbling in the West, Japan, and Turkey; and the block-printed papers of Japan and Southeast Asia.

About the Paper Legacy Collection at the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Met

An unparalleled primary resource, the Paper Legacy Collection contains more than 1,500 full sheets of original decorated paper, with corresponding descriptions and biographical notes, which have been supplied by each artist or their representative. The collection also includes professional archives, correspondence, trade material, books, tools, ephemera, and examples of commercial items using their designs. For more information about the Paper Legacy Collection, please visit the research guide at https://www.metmuseum.org/paperlegacy.

Thomas J. Watson Library is The Met’s research library. With its collection of more than one million volumes, extensive digital collections, and online resources, Watson Library is one of the world’s most comprehensive art libraries. For more information on the collections and visiting the library, go to https://www.metmuseum.org/art/libraries-and-research-centers/thomas-j-watson-library

Upcoming Exhibitions at The Grolier Club

To Fight for the Poor with My Pen: Zoe Anderson Norris, Queen of Bohemia

March 2 – May 13, 2023

A Century of Dining Out: The American Story in Menus, 1841-1941

April 26 – July 29, 2023

Grolier Club

47 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022

Paper Arts at the Grolier Club NYC

Event Title: Paper Arts at the Grolier Club NYC

Start date: January 18, 2023

End date: April 8, 2023

Location name: Grolier Club

Address: 47 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022

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