The Carpet Paradigm
Integral Flatness from Decorative to Fine Art
by Joseph Masheck
EP 19: JOSEPH MASHECK published thirty years ago a wide-ranging history-of-ideas inquiry into carpet, textile and related figures for integral flatness in painting as they emerged out of the early modern design movement. Such concern with planarity, uncompromised by pictorial illusion, had a long prehistory in the modernist cause, underpinning the most sublimated ‘fine art’ of painting as raised to a higher power. But, by the mid-1970s, a new generation was increasingly frustrated by the way the notion of flatness in painting had become practically trademarked, like a patent medicine, with the name of one of the most influential critics, Clement Greenberg. Interested in abstract art from his youth, hence suspicious of all generalizations about painting presuming representation, Masheck was not inclined to give up on its formal aspect, never having owed his understanding of its ideal as well as material flatness to any one critic, and more inclined than most to trace this special flatness to the real-world craft work of the decorative arts. The product of Masheck’s investigation into the wider and deeper extent of the critical discourse of flatness became a classic text in the literature of modern art criticism, and is presented here for the first time in book form as THE CARPET PARADIGM: INTEGRAL FLATNESS FROM DECORATIVE TO FINE ART.
Joseph Masheck was editor-in-chief of Artforum from 1977 to 1980. He has taught at Barnard, Harvard and Hofstra, and is currently Centenary Fellow and Visiting Professor of History of Art at Edinburgh College of Art. His most recent book is C’s Aesthetics: Philosophy in Painting (Philadelphia: Slought Foundation and the Bryn Mawr College Visual Studies Center, 2004).
First edition paperback, January 2010, 136 pp., sewn, bound, and printed in Italy, with a two-color cover, and a black and white photograph of the author on the frontispiece.