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 Robert Ellis Kushner  (1949 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: sculpture, mod figure, floral, collage, prints, architect

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Ad Code: 3
Robert Ellis Kushner
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A member of the Pattern and Decoration movement, Robert Kushner, creates art ranging from black and white drawings done directly on walls to paintings on stitched together pieces of fabric to large-scale mosaics.

Kushner began his formal education at the University of California at San Diego studying with Nan Goldin, who was a visiting lecturer at the school from 1969-70.

In the early 1970s, he moved to New York City where he first found work as a restorer and collector of Oriental carpets.  In New York his relationship with Nan Goldin continued, and she became his mentor.  The pair studied the essentials of decoration, and in 1974 they traveled to Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.

In the late 1970s Kushner's work was boldly colored painted-fabric works that were inspired by the textiles of Uzbekistan in which patterned fabrics are stitched together to create wall hangings.

In 1985, the artist traveled to Japan where he was strongly influenced by the country's art.  In the late 1990s he began painting decoration on Japanese screens, which he has recovered from thrift shops and auctions adding "symbols of change and survival" to the artwork.

Kushner's more recent work experiments with the use of chance, a theory of John Cage's in making artwork.  For an artwork memorializing the victims of September 11, Kushner dropped paper onto a canvas then painted where the papers had fallen.

He has also created some large-scale works including Island Garden, which measures 41 feet in length and wraps around a rooms four walls.  A collaboration with mosaicist Stephen Miotto resulted in a large subway project in glass, tile and marble for the 77th Street Station in Manhattan.

In 1990, during the extensive renovation of the lobby of 1270, Avenue of the Americas, Rockefeller Center, a search conducted by professionals of the Museum of Modern Art to locate an artist whose work was suitable for this project resulted in the selection of Kushner.  He did three winged sculpture pieces in bronze, with a blue-green patina, and he called them Sentinels because they are "silent, and heavy guardians of the building." (Roussel 10)  Their placement is high on the walls, close to the ceiling and near the entrance.  Because of a special method of casting and hand-carving the patterns, the overall affect is figures that "appear drawn or sketched like caricatures in a golden dreamland."  (Roussel 10)

Sources include:
Art in America, June/July 2005
Christine Roussel, The Guide to the Art of Rockefeller Center

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