Krugier Gallery and Richard L. Feigen & Co. are proud to present Irving Petlin: A Retrospective, a
two-part exhibition featuring works from three decades of the artist's career.
The shows will include some of Petlin’s most recent works and both oil
paintings and pastels from earlier series. Krugier and Feigen join the Kent
Gallery to form a tripartite exhibition project dedicated to Irving Petlin.
Irving Petlin was born in Chicago to Polish Jewish parents who left Europe in
the early 1920s right after World War I. He attended the Art Institute of
Chicago in the 1950s, during the height of the Chicago Imagist movement.
It was in Chicago and during his subsequent fellowship at Yale, where he
studied under Josef Albers, that Petlin honed his ability to transform metaphor
and fantasy into composition. The power of negative space on a canvas, the
sanctity of drawing, and a keen understanding of color are all traits that
would become vital to Petlin’s artistic expression.
Stationed at the Presidio military base in San Francisco by the army in 1959,
Petlin served in the army by day and painted by night.After spending a couple of years in
Paris, Petlin returned to California in 1964, moving to Los Angeles, where he
became a visiting artist at UCLA along with fellow artist Richard Diebenkorn.
At this time, he collaborated with other emerging artists including
Mark di Suvero, and New York-based artists Max Kozloff, Claus Oldenburg, Leon
Golub, Carl Andre, and others to protest the war in Vietnam. Petlin
worked on a number of important political works during these years such as The Burning of Los Angeles (1965-67),
which reflected his intense social and political activism, and the Los Angeles
Peace Tower, which he completed with Mark di Suvero in 1966. In the 1990s
and early 2000s, Petlin would execute works related to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while also producing his
Richard L. Feigen & Co. will focus on Petlin’s ‘landscapes,’ which depict
spaces that are as much cerebral as they are visual. They are composites
of the imagined and the viewed, portraying places where Petlin has worked and
lived, as well as places that hold larger historical and mythological
significance. The landscapes are often viewed from a window, and suggest
an interpretation of nature reflecting an individual’s recollection and the
realm of collective memory.
The Jan Krugier Gallery, which has represented Petlin’s work for decades, will
concentrate on Petlin's pastel works from his series inspired by major Post-War
writers and intellectuals like Primo Levi, Bruno Schulz, Paul Celan, and Edmond
Jabès. These profound dedications envision what was once and is no more, as
expressed in the postwar prose of Jabès and the poems of Celan as well as in
the mysterious tales of Schulz's prewar Poland.
Engaging in multiple discourses – political, philosophical, psychological –
Irving Petlin examines issues such as American involvement in war, the Shoah,
allegories of childhood fables, and the visual meaning of place. The
artist has described this approach as an “interrogation of memory” that
constantly leads him to further exploration.
Down Melancholy’s Rapids (Red), 2000
25 5/8 x 20 1/2 in. (65 x 52 cm.)
Orpheus (A Visit to the Underworld), 2004
Oil on Canvas
70 4/5 x 110 1/2 in (180 x 280 cm.)
Irving Petlin, Este Mundo, 2006.
Oil on Canvas, 65 x 147 5/8 in. (165 x 375 cm.)
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