Ornamentation is an art that is added to art.
Ornamentation is the only art whose sole purpose is pleasure.
Paraphrasing James Trilling on ornamentation
While I eschew most definitive statements these claims for ornamentation do get to somethings I’m interested in.
The first suggests that ornamentation is only ever in relation to other things. For me this is analogous to the self always being in relations.
Being always already in relation, a reductionist logic results in ornamentation’s disappearance and denigration as famously articulated by Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime. Understandable, even necessary, in it’s day what with all that excessive, illogical, cake decorated Victorian architecture associational with outdated traditions and class structure that’s part and parcel. It’s no coincidence that the decline of manners begins at the same time as the rejection of ornamentation and the rise of autonomous abstract painting.
And too, in the serious world of ‘art as idea’, beauty is suspect in part because it is pleasurable. Art’s ideas about seriousness is often exemplify in the matter a fact aesthetic ‘stylings’ of conceptualism, however much providing for a transgressive sublime in it’s classical phase. Being concerned with providing pleasure can, and has, become a critique of modernism, but no new ideas there so who needs that!
Ornamentation also gets to the heart of abstractions anxiety about the decorative, something I admit to sharing. Early writings around the ‘invention’ of abstraction are replete with earnest insistence to differentiate itself from the decorative. I suppose if your making a new world (or recovering a hidden one) you’ve got to be serious AND other. Ornamentation was handy to repress in the making new and thus handy to resurrect in the critique of that new new.
But of course no new ideas here ether given Ventura, Gombrich, post-modernism, multi-culturalism and, and, and, and…
It’s been all these things for me but really in the end (being essentially true?) I just love pattern. It still thrills me, moves me and makes me dance.
It’s not enough, but it sure ain’t nothing!