Philip Pearlstein’s “saucer of formalism”

The Montclair Museum’s retrospective of Philip Pearlstein’s work includes an award-winning artwork from high school, expressionist works of the 1950s, post-1961 female and male studio nudes, lesser-known landscapes and cityscapes, and a selection of portraits. Curator Patterson Sims spoke with The Star-Ledger’s art critic Dan Bischoff. “Philip told me, at one point, why he decided he didn’t want to be an Abstract Expressionist — because he didn’t want to have a perpetual nervous breakdown. He wanted his art to be an orderly experience, for him as much as for the viewer.”

“And orderly it is,” Bischoff reports. “Reduced, in Pearlstein’s classic period, to classroom nudes arranged matter-of-factly amid a growing cast of thrift shop props (empire chairs, wooden lions, toy trains, hammocks, etc. Just see ‘Model with Neon Mickey and Bouncy Duck,’ finished in 2007. That Pearlstein could take both the oldest art subject and the most socially charged (nudity) and make it flat, neutral even, has a kind of dignity of purpose, a coolness of resolve, that has to be admired….’Objectifications’ is accompanied by a smaller show of objects gleaned from the Moses and Ida Soyer bequest, given to Montclair in 1974 by Moses Soyer, the well-known representative painter. Drawings, sculptures and paintings by Edward Hopper, Ben Shahn, Philip Evergood, Chaim Gross, and several others are arranged in the small reading room near the old main entrance, most of the art documenting the humanist concerns of the Depression era, when inspiring figuration was all the rage. You should take in all the hot little sketches hung in this room and cool them in the saucer of Pearlstein’s formalism, just around the corner. Together they make a perfect Goldilocks of a show.” Read more.

Tonight at 7pm, Pearlstein’s studio assistant and model Kilolo Kumanyika will give a guided tour of the show.

Philip Pearlstein: Objectifications,” Curated by Patterson Sims. Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ. Through February 1.

One Comment

  1. I love the idea of wanting your art to be an orderly experience. WOW>

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