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Philip Pearlstein, Then and Now

Betty Cuningham Gallery
541 West 25th Street, 212 242 2772
June 26 - August 8, 2008
Reception: Thursday, June 26, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

By presenting paintings from the late 1960’s alongside paintings from the 1990’s to the present, the exhibition will reveal the unique evolution in Pearlstein’s work. Throughout his career Pearlstein always held a commitment to staying with representation but stripping it of content. Inspired by Pearlstein, in the 1960’s John Perrault wrote the manifesto for the New Realism:

No stories; no allegories; no symbols.

No hidden meanings; no obvious meanings.

No philosophy, religion, or psychology.

No jokes. No political content. No illustration.

No fantasy or imagination; no dreams; no poetry.

Staying just short of total abstraction, Pearlstein built his paintings from the things which were central to classical art: the nude, its surroundings and even the drapery. The nude in Pearlstein’s work is characteristically larger than life and treated with a sense of cold abstraction. Oddly when juxtaposed against the more recent paintings, endowed with objects and toys, the nude becomes harder, marrying the animate with the inanimate in the continuous skin of the painting. In the paintings of the 1990’s and later, our focus moves away from the earlier more luscious human body to the spatial and compositional relationships between the objects and nudes. Having started during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, Pearlstein first dabbled in some expressionist work.

Philip Pearlstein was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1924 and has been exhibiting in New York since 1955. His work can be seen in 66 museum collections, including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Whitney Museum.

In addition, Pearlstein has garnered numerous awards and recognitions throughout his life. Most notably are the National Council of Arts Administrators Visual Artist Award, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Pearlstein has received honorary doctorate degrees from the New York Academy of Arts, Brooklyn College, and the Center for Creative Studies and the College of Art & Design, Detroit. He served as the President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 2003 through 2006.
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