Cynthia CARLSON American, b. 1942

Cynthia Carlson was a critical figure in the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s. At the time of the first exhibition, Cynthia Carlson was known for using a pastry tool to cover her paintings and installations in thick squiggles and swirls. Although her work has changed over time, she remains consistent in incorporating color, pattern, and her signature humor. 

Often described as the first contemporary art movement comprised of majority female artists, Pattern and Decoration defied the dominance of modernist art by embracing the much-maligned category of the decorative. These artists gleaned motifs, color schemes, and materials from the decorative arts, freely appropriating floral, arabesque, and patchwork patterns and arranging them in intricate, almost dizzying, and sometimes purposefully gaudy designs. Most importantly, it was intended as a recuperation of forms and techniques historically discredited on the basis of their “femininity” and their status as craft.

Carlson has had solo shows across the USA, such as the Barbara Toll Gallery (NYC), the Pam Adler Gallery (NYC), the AIR Gallery (NYC), the Marian Locks Gallery (PHL), the Charles More Gallery (PHL), the Phyllis Kind Gallery (CHI) and the Marianne Deson Gallery (CHI), among others. Her work has been featured in numerous solo museum exhibitions including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia; the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY.

Her work is in numerous public collections, a selection of which include the Guggenheim Museum, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, and San Antonio Art Museum. Her public commissions are permanently installed in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Baltimore. 

In 2020 she was the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award.