Robert Kushner (1949- ) is a New York, N.Y.-based painter of the Pattern and Decoration movement and an installation artist who began his career as a performance artist.
Kushner was born in Pasadena, California in 1949 and studied visual arts at the University of California at San Diego, La Jolla in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kushner met and worked closely with the critic Amy Goldin at UCSD, and his work was strongly influenced by her scholarship and thinking about non-Western visual cultures, particularly regarding Islamic decorative art.
Kushner began his work with fashion, costume, and performance in the early 1970s in New York City. He performed and exhibited in the many SOHO art spaces that emerged at that time supporting avant garde and experimental art, such as the 98 Greene Street Loft, the Kitchen, The Clocktower, St. Mark's Church, and Paula Cooper Gallery. The work evolved from the creation of soft sculptures using found materials, to the creation of costumes and fashion "lines" with nontraditional materials, including fresh food, which he presented in the performance genres of pageants and fashion shows, using models to exhibit his works before live audiences. In 1973, art dealer Holly Solomon became a champion of his work. He was a founding member of the Pattern and Decoration movement beginning in the mid-1970s, and his performance, costume, and paintings are strongly associated with that movement.
Kushner has exhibited his work widely, with major exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art. Kushner's work is included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the National Gallery of Art, among many others. He is represented in New York by the DC Moore Gallery.