Now open in our Ground Floor Gallery: Pattern and Flow

“Pattern and Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper, 1960s to 2000s”

The Paper Legacy Project collection, Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
January 18 – April 8, 2023

“Pattern and Flow” surveys for the first time the golden age of American decorated paper, telling the story of 53 imaginative and innovative artists who, working independently and together, revived the largely forgotten arts of marbled and paste paper design. The designs created by these 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.

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 collection. Decorated papers will be shown in context with rare books, objects, color recipe books, correspondence, photographs, and hand-tools used by Paper Legacy artists. Highlights 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); unexpected products made with the artists’ paper designs, such as Galen Berry’s printed marbled rodeo poster; and an iconic marbled object: the original Kleenex box and its matching paper, made by Faith Harrison. An accompanying monograph, published by the Thomas J. Watson Library, is distributed by Yale University Press.

Images of the exhibition are available via Flickr, or you can visit the online exhibition.

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