American (Pittsburgh, Pa., 1924)
"Two Reclining Nudes"
World War II, which took him to the Italian theater as a road sign painter, interrupted
Philip Pearlstein's studies at Carnegie Institute of Technology. He returned after
the war and became a colleague and friend of another native Pittsburger, Andy Warhola,
aka Andy Warhol. After graduation in 1949, they shared apartments in New York while
working as illustrators. Pearlstein, meanwhile, was pursuing his career as an abstract
expressionist painter and finding a measure of critical success. He was acquainted
with Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning and the critic Clement Greenberg among the artists
and writers concentrated around 10th Street in Greenwich Village. He was also pursuing
a master's degree in art history at NYU's Institute of Fine Art, which gave him an
unusually critical perspective on contemporary art developments. Joining Guston and
a few others, Pearlstein began regularly drawing from the nude for several years while
continuing to enjoy success with his gestural abstractions.
In 1962, Pearlstein showed figure drawings for the first time. By now, pop and new
realist artists were beginning to produce figurative work. However, Alex Katz' or
Richard Lindner's work insists on the two-dimensionality of the picture plane expressed
in part by flattened figures. Pearlstein's realistically rendered figures occupy natural
space within and beyond the rectangle of the drawing surface, which crops off heads,
arms, feet and other parts falling outside its frame. In addition and most shockingly
for the time, he drew the bodies as clinically observed, ordinary, warts-and-all bodies
in bored, sometimes sprawling, poses. Pearlstein's long career as a painter and printmaker
has been built on this approach to the figure. He taught at Skowhegan in the summers
of 1967 and 1968.
Hours & Location
Monday – Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm
except between temporary exhibits
and on University holidays.
142 CFA Building
Memphis, TN 38152
Phone: (901) 678-2224
Fax: (901) 678-5118