Exhibition | The Clamor of Ornament

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 18, 2022

Wolfgang Hieronymus Von Bömmel, Lion and Hare Composed of Ornamental Leaf-Work, from Neueersonnene Gold-Schmieds Grillen (New Designs for Ornaments in Gold), 1698, engraving on off-white laid paper, 12.7 × 20 cm (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, museum purchase through gift of the Estate of David Wolfe Bishop).

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From the press release for the exhibition:

The Clamor of Ornament: Exchange, Power, and Joy from the Fifteenth Century to the Present
The Drawing Center, New York, 15 June — 18 September 2022

Organized by Emily King, with Margaret Anne Logan and Duncan Tomlin

Bringing together more than 200 objects from across the globe, The Clamor of Ornament explores ornament in architecture, art, and design through the lens of drawing. Spanning all three of The Drawing Center’s galleries, the exhibition features a broad range of drawings, prints, books, textiles, and photographs dating from the fifteenth century to the present. Foregrounding ornament’s potential as a mode of communication, a form of currency, and a means of exchange across geographies and cultures, The Clamor of Ornament both celebrates and interrogates ornament’s fluidity by making connections between motifs, methods, and intentions.

“The Drawing Center’s mission is to produce exhibitions and scholarship on drawing of all kinds with the broader goal of promoting drawing as an essential medium in art history, as well as in the contemporary moment,” said Laura Hoptman, The Drawing Center’s Executive Director. “While the majority of shows in our forty-five-year history have focused on fine art, our brief also includes illustration, comics, vernacular and commercial drawing, architecture, and design. The Clamor of Ornament is our first design exhibition in many years and the most ambitious omnibus exhibition The Drawing Center has undertaken in decades.”

Unknown artist, Northern Coromandel coast, India Tree-of-Life Palampore, ca. 1730–50, painted and resist dyed cotton, 318 × 212 cm (Courtesy of Prahlad Bubbar, London, Todd-White Art Photography).

The exhibition’s title is a play on that of Owen Jones’s magnum opus The Grammar of Ornament. First published in 1856, Jones’s compendium sought to establish a set of universal design rules and principles that would apply to ornament in every instance, regardless of its inspiration or application. Rather than seeking to establish new parameters and rules, The Clamor of Ornament celebrates ornamental profusion and welcomes its ability to disrupt canonical form and taste. In swapping ‘Grammar’ for ‘Clamor’, the exhibition’s curators seek to emphasize ornament’s ability to not only communicate but also to embellish and to complicate.

Ornament moves within and between communities and cultures, and throughout the exhibition are examples of ornamental communication as contextual and mutable. This makes for surprising pairings and juxtapositions, such as a woodblock knot print by Albercht Dürer—whose intricate composition was inspired by a design by Leonardo da Vinci, which in turn was influenced by geometric ornament of the Ottoman Empire. Dürer’s well-known knot image is exhibited alongside London-based designer Martin Sharp’s iconic poster of Bob Dylan from 1968, which includes the Ottoman/da Vinci/Dürer design transformed into a psychedelic mandala.

This broad approach to the subject of ornament encompasses objects ranging from eighteenth-century Indian palampores and Pennsylvania Dutch Fraktur drawings to Kosode cut paper designs and Navajo textiles. The history of architectural ornament is explored through drawings by Louis Sullivan and David Adjaye, and contemporary ornament is represented by designs from luxury fashion brands, examples of digital ornament, and even present-day designs for patisserie.

The Clamor of Ornament is organized by Dr. Emily King, Guest Curator, with Margaret Anne Logan and Duncan Tomlin.

The catalogue is available to read for free online:

Laura Hoptman, Emily King, Margaret Anne Logan, Farshid Moussavi, Duro Olowu, Shola Von Reinhold, and Duncan Tomlin, The Clamor of Ornament: Exchange, Power, and Joy from the Fifteenth Century to the Present (New York: The Drawing Center, New York, 2022), 242 pages, $33.


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