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Highlights of Provocative Patterns

The Premise

When Didi Menendez, publisher of PoetsArtists invited me to curate a special edition for the third time, I relished the opportunity. Curating Idiosyncratic Monochromes in 2017 and Glorious Color in 2018 were both immensely enriching experiences for me. 

This time, to follow the monochromatic and color topics of my previous special editions, I chose Provocative Patterns as the starring topic. My objective: To publish a spectacular anthology of figurative artwork expressing artists’ interpretations of patterns—be they visual, physical, emotional, conceptual, or symbolic. 

Provocative Patterns 

The theme of this special edition, Provocative Patterns, can be interpreted in multiple ways which I left, in large part, to the interpretation and imagination of the artists. My guidelines stated:

•A pattern can be a repeated design, decoration, motif, marks or brushstrokes. A pattern can also suggest a behavior, a habit, or a stimulus. A pattern may be recurrent, repetitive, or rhythmic.

•Provocative can mean exciting, alluring, seductive, tempting, suggestive, inviting, infuriating, or vexing. Provocative can imply causing a strong emotional reaction or suggest contemplation.

Human brains have evolved to recognize patterns, especially on a visual level. The part of the brain that controls pattern recognition is the cerebral cortex, it’s the outer layer of neural tissue of the cerebrum. It is responsible for high-level thinking, problem solving, language, planning, vision, pattern recognition, and so on.

In nature patterns can often be chaotic, yet many are symmetrical and/or radial, and many have fractal dimensions—think of spirals, spots, stripes, waves, ripples, bubbles, scales, crevices, and branches. 

In art and architecture, decorations, structures, and shapes are often combined and repeated to create patterns designed to have a certain effect on the us—think of tiling, weaves, columns, windows, flooring, and reiterating decorative designs.

In science and mathematics some rule patterns can be visualized. Fractals are mathematical patterns that are scale invariant, meaning that the shape of the pattern does not depend on how closely you look at it—think coast lines and tree shapes.

The human tendency to see patterns that do not actually exist is called apophenia. Examples include the Man in the Moon, faces or figures in shadows or clouds, and in patterns with no deliberate design, such as the swirls on cake. Apophenia also describes the perception of underlying connections between events which are, in fact, unrelated.

The Mission

Patterns within artwork can be eye-catching and thought-provoking. There’s a sense of exhilaration in the quest to make sense of visual or conceptual labyrinths; we want to solve the puzzle. For this PoetsArtists issue I envisioned a sophisticated yet highly engaging collection of lavishly elaborate paintings that result in a must-have art publication worthy of special edition status. 

All selected pieces fit the key principles of what I consider to be brilliant examples of Provocative Patterns. Some paintings rely on repetitions in brush strokes, colors, or shapes, while others rely on symbolism, narrative, or whimsy. I selected a total of 48 pieces—and yes, I shamelessly added one of my own, just because… hey, I can.

Accompanying each painting, I clarify my reasons for including the piece. Independently, each piece stands out for its individual splendor and amazing conception. Seen together as a collection, these paintings form a moving and inspiring survey of the creative expression of provocative patterns. 


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