“The modern man who tattoos himself is either a criminal or a degenerate.” —Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime
To decorate is to adorn, embellish, ornament, trim, garnish, furnish, enhance, grace, brighten, festoon, burnish, gild, bedazzle or prettify. Western culture has tended to regard decoration with suspicion, classifying it as “excess.” This studio course will consider the charged relationship between modernism and ornament, exploring decoration as a formal, social, and political phenomenon. It will address “the decorative” as method and meaning, with an intent to compare the terms “art” and “decoration” as distinct discourses that are intertwined. Furthermore, we will consider how the marginalization of decoration in contemporary art reinforces existing gender, racial, and cultural biases. Assigned readings include texts by Clement Greenberg, Susan Sontag, Amy Goldin, John Perreault, Miriam Schapiro, and Elissa Auther.