Design Vs. Art

12.19.1311:55 AM ET

Pollock and Motherwell Stole From Wallpaper Makers

At the Guggenheim, Robert Motherwell's collages depend on patterns by others.

"Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive", made by Robert Motherwell in 1943, is from the lovely show of his early collages now at the Guggenheim in New York. That spotted surface glued on at right is identified as "German decorative paper", and must have existed already before Motherwell began his piece. It brings up one of the most interesting outstanding issues around Abstract Expressionist art: Were many of its classic devices, such as messy alloverism, already favorites in the decorative arts? The AbEx-ers were accused by their critics of "just making wallpaper" or "just producing tie fabrics" – which would seem to imply that the designers of wallpaper and ties had already discovered some elements of  AbEx style.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

how do i comment?
Get The Daily Beast In Your Inbox
By clicking "Subscribe", you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason
Follow The Daily Beast