Born in Pasadena, California, Robert Kushner earned a B.A. in Visual Arts from the University of California at San Diego in 1971 and moved to New York City the following year. He was a founder of the anti-minimalist Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s. His early works, painted on unstretched cloth, were sometimes also worn as costumes for his performance works. Kushner’s early work blended his love of Islamic pattern, French modernism, and the art of the Far East with an idiosyncratic outlook. In the fall of 1974 he set off on a three-month trip to Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan with his friend and mentor, critic Amy Goldin, which proved to be extremely important to his future development as an artist.
In the early 1980s, Kushner turned away from strict repeating patterns and began painting from live models, maintaining a decorative sensibility. His primary materials were still fabric and acrylic paint, now used in combination with a wide variety of found textiles. In 1984, Kushner was the subject of one-person exhibitions at both the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, and in 1987, the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art organized a mid-career summary of his work. Travel in the early 1980s to India and especially to Japan in the mid 1980s strongly influenced the direction of his work.
In 1986, Kushner began painting on canvas with his first extended series of flower paintings. Large blocks of color, lavish application of paint, delicate drawing and decorative elements of gold, silver, and glitter formed the underpinning for a profusion of floral and foliar motifs. In subsequent years new formal concepts were gradually introduced into Kushner’s work, culminating in his recent series of paintings executed on antique Japanese screens and canvases.
A major monograph on Kushner’s three decades of artistic work, entitled Gardens of Earthly Delight, with text by Alexandra Anderson-Spivy and Holland Cotter, was published by Hudson Hills Press in the fall of 1997. Recent solo exhibitions include Sliding Doors: Homage to John Cage and Opening Doors at DC Moore Gallery in New York, Spring Scatter Summation at Wisteriahurst Museum, Holyoke, MA, Nahenahe at the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii, The Pleasure of it All: Robert Kushner’s Flower Paintings at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, as well as solo exhibitions in Japan at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, Gallery Shiraishi in Tokyo, and Yoshiaki Inoue Gallery in Osaka.
Robert Kushner’s works are in the permanent collections of museums around the world including: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Tate Gallery, London, England; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI; The Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Galleria degli Ufizzi, Florence, Italy; J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, CA; Museum Ludwig, St. Petersburg, Russia; and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.
Robert Kushner is represented by DC Moore Gallery in New York City.