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"Pattern: Follow the Rules" opens at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University
Ara Peterson, Blue/Orange Roll, 2010. Wood and acrylic paint, 12.5 x 25 x 25 in. Courtesy the artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

EAST LANSING, MI.- The exhibition Pattern: Follow the Rules will open on March 22, 2013, at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (Broad MSU). Curated by Broad MSU Curator of Contemporary Art Alison Gass, Pattern: Follow the Rules looks at innovative new definitions of pattern in 21st-century art.

The museum, which opened its new Zaha Hadid-designed building in November 2012, is dedicated to international contemporary art. The Broad MSU also serves as both an educational resource for the Michigan State University campus community and a cultural hub for the Central Michigan region.

Throughout the 20th century, pattern has consistently been positioned tenuously between form and content—including an historical indictment of pattern-based work as pure decoration rather than sophisticated enough to qualify is “high art.” Pattern, however, is currently being re-invigorated as significant space for artistic creativity. Today, new technologies, including digitization and computer programming, drive artists’ abilities to radically manipulate form and materials and there is a marked movement afoot in artists’ use of science, math, and technology to generate forms. With this exhibition, notions of pattern are re-examined and redefined. Working off of pervasive trends in recent art practice, this new definition of pattern is more akin to a mathematical pattern than a decorative one, though always the result veers into the language of rhythmic decoration. Importantly, these artists abandon (at least in part) traditional modes of using the hand and the mind in making aesthetic judgments, instead setting up a system of rules or a mechanical system to generate a final structure—a new way of conceiving of the relationship between form and content.

Through a series of installations, large scale paintings, and sculptures, Pattern: Follow the Rules examines the state of pattern-based art practice at the beginning of the 21st century. Each work evidences intense artistic process, recalling and relying on a history of conceptual and even performance art. Yet unlike that vein of art practice, each also involves a high level of visual and optical engagement. In this way, the works speak to a history of visual abstraction, in a many instances engaging an evolving conversation about the state of abstract painting in the 21st century.

Pattern has taken on many different cultural associations across the history of art. Though the premise of Pattern: Follow the Rules is inherently an idea of formalism, many of the works in the exhibition speak to the social and historical complexities of form and manifest significant historical and social ideas. Examples include the examination of language and cultural difference, the space between the scientific and the spiritual, and an activated engagement of the gendered nature of craft-based work. Regardless of the mode of making or the content within the form, each work in the exhibition asks the viewer to re-evaluate the way they see and experience the space they are in, the object they confront, and the relationship between vision and perception. Form and content will both collide and inter-inform one another as new meanings about the role of pattern in contemporary art are explored.

Artists in the exhibition include Walead Beshty, Teresita Fernández, Mark Grotjahn, Shirazeh Houshiary, Zilvinas Kempinas, Jason Middlebrook, Mai-Thu Perret, Ara Peterson, Hugh Scott-Douglas, Alyson Shotz, Rudolf Stingel, Tam Van Tran, Garth Weisner, Pae White, and Christopher Wool.

On view until June 23, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in the fall of 2013. Pattern: Follow the Rules is generously supported by the MSU Federal Credit Union.

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