Reverie: Dupatta-topia (2017-2019)
At once a radical departure from recent work, these paintings hark back to some of Robert Kushner’s earliest paintings on fabric from the 1970’s and 80’s. They tap into the issues of embellishment and beauty in art that is ever-present in his paintings. For the first time, Kushner is collaging fabric to canvas before adding paint and gilding. The fabrics, mostly silk, come from India, Japan, and Uzbekistan. The flamboyance, sparkle, elegance and technical mastery of all of these materials, particularly the Indian embroideries known as dupattas, are endlessly fascinating to Kushner.
The textiles are adhered to the canvas or panel, allowing hints of hidden embroidered portions to show through the layers of paint, gilding and collage. This results in a complex surface that could not be created in any other way. This over-the-top richness allows Kushner to continue his explorations of elaborate, dense surfaces and compositions, and to wryly ask, “Is more enough?” Kushner is seeking a balance between the ornamentation on the dupattas he uses and his own depiction of floral and geometric structures.
His use of the fabric’s design, combined with underlying replicating grids, allows him to examine and express the idea of patterns as the substrate of our cultural experiences. The result is a lyrical fusion of Eastern and Western styles and this multiplicity of forms, the extensive layering, and diverse palette allows the mood of the pieces to vary from buoyant and a little giddy, to somber and severe.