Motifs and compositions from Japanese art have been a major influence on Robert Kushner's paintings on canvas and his works on paper for many years. However, the body of work presented here marks a new direction for the artist: painting directly on antique Japanese folding screens and sliding doors--with dazzling results.
The works in Wild Gardens reflect Kushner's longtime appreciation of Japanese art and culture combined with the use of composer and visual artist John Cage's "chance operation" system of composition. Several years ago, Kushner began incorporating elements of Cage's theories of chance composition as a major component in his own painting. Kushner and Cage met on an artists' retreat in the South Seas in 1980 and became friends, sharing interests in art, life, and flowers.
Multiple layers of randomness echo throughout the paintings in this book--starting with the sheer accident of the physical survival of the individual antique screens and doors and their arrival in Kushner's New York studio and culminating in the compositions themselves: rows of similar leaves or flowers are repeated, with the selection of color or form indicated by chance operation, and with the use of counting and placement systems that yield strangely unexpected but surprisingly naturalistic results.
In an eloquent, humorous essay, Kushner relates his discoveries, process, and passion in working with Japanese screens. An insightful essay by critic and curator Michael Duncan, corresponding editor for Art in America, surveys Kushner's evolution as one of America's leading contemporary artists.