Exhibition

  • A New Grammar of Ornament
    Emily King
    Curator
    The Drawing Center, New York
    Jun 15, 2022 to Sep 18, 2022
  • GRANTEE
    The Drawing Center
    GRANT YEAR
    2021

Albrecht Dürer,after Leonardo da Vinci, “The First Knot,” ca.1521. Interlaced Roundel with an Oblong Panel in its Center. Woodcut,10 11/16 x 8 3/8 inches (27.1 x 21.2 cm). Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. George Khuner Collection, Bequest of Marianne Khuner, 1984

A New Grammar of Ornament examines ornament, through the lens of drawing, as a vehicle through which ideas from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa penetrated European architecture and design. It addresses ornament’s demonization and adversarial relationship to Modernism, and its resurgence in the 21st century. As its thesis, the exhibition explores the potential for ornament to be a form of communication, a kind of currency, and a means of exchange. Borrowing its title from Owen Jones’s The Grammar of Ornament, a large-scale study of ornament across time and territories drawn by Jones and his assistants and first published in 1856, this exhibition takes the form of a survey. While in his publication Jones aspired to be comprehensive and authoritative, this exhibition acknowledges ornament’s idiosyncrasy and accepts loose ends. Containing loans from international institutions and collections, A New Grammar of Ornament features over 160 drawings, notebooks, style guides, and objects.

Emily King, the exhibition’s curator, is a London-based design historian. In 1999, she completed her doctorate on type design in the first decade of device-independent digital technology, and has since concentrated on freelance writing, editing, and curating. King organized exhibitions on graphic designers Robert Brownjohn and Alan Fletcher for the Design Museum in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Recent projects include the 2017 conference Design and Empire (working title) with Prem Krishnamurthy; Bauhaus – 100 years on, an event exploring the legacy of the Bauhaus hosted by Frieze Academy in 2018; and substantial interviews with Laurie Anderson for The Happy Reader and Rem Koolhaas for Fantastic Man. Her books include Designed by Peter Saville (Frieze, 2003), Robert Brownjohn: Sex and Typography (Laurence King, 2005), and M to M to M/M Paris (Thames & Hudson, 2012). Most recently, King curated the Beazley Designs of the Year 2020 exhibition at the Design Museum.

Duncan Tomlin, guest curatorial assistant, catalogue contributor, is a New York City-based curatorial researcher and art historian. In 2017, Tomlin received his masters degree from The Courtauld Institute of Art where he focused on Spanish medieval visual culture. More recently, Tomlin has worked as a research assistant on a variety of academic and curatorial projects and worked as an art analyst for the data-technology startup Arthena. Tomlin cocurated The Drawing Center's 2019–20 historical survey exhibition, The Pencil Is a Key: Drawings by Incarcerated Artists, for which he also organized the project bibliography and contributed to the exhibition catalogue.

Margaret-Anne Logan, guest curatorial assistant, catalogue contributor, is an art historian and museum professional working in New York City. She earned her master’s degree in the history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2017, and was recognized with the Director’s Award for an Outstanding Dissertation. Her specialization is eighteenth-century French art and material culture. She graduated magna cum laude from Trinity College, with a bachelor’s degree in art history and minors in French, French Studies, and Creative Writing. Margaret-Anne has worked in the media relations departments at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as a Curatorial Assistant at Guild Hall of East Hampton.

Founded in 1977 by Martha Beck (1938–2014), The Drawing Center—an exhibition space in downtown Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood—explores the medium of drawing as primary, dynamic, and relevant to contemporary culture, the future of art, and creative thought. Its activities are both multidisciplinary and broadly historical, and include exhibitions, publications, and educational and public programs.