Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Work of iconic American artist on exhibit at Zoellner

Pearlstein's work is on display until April 23.

An exhibition of the paintings, life-sized watercolors, progression prints, drawings, studio objects, and a classic instructional video of the work of Philip Pearlstein is currently on exhibit at Lehigh to celebrate the contribution of the iconic American artist.

“What we are offering here is the work of one of America’s great figurative painters,” says Ricardo Viera, curator of the Lehigh University Art Galleries and professor of art and architecture. “Philip Pearlstein is a master of realism of the nude human figure who feels that he has rescued the naked human figure from those who exploited it sexually, as well as the expressionists who distorted it, sometimes beyond recognition.”

The exhibit, titled “Philip Pearlstein, American Master: A Celebration of the Human Figure,” opened at the Lehigh University Art Galleries in late January and will run through April 23. Viera is the curator of the exhibit, in collaboration with artist and costume designer Mary Mulder, and the university’s department of art and architecture, ArtsLehigh and the Humanities Center.

The exhibit is presented at the Zoellner Arts Center main gallery, and in the DuBois Gallery in Maginnes Hall. It also features a photographic studio essay of the artist by photographer Theo Anderson, a frequent contributor to the Lehigh Alumni Bulletin.

Throughout the process of researching and preparing for the exhibit, Viera says that Pearlstein and his wife, Dorothy, were extremely cooperative. Pearlstein also showed his support for the exhibit by visiting the gallery for a well-attended reception at Lehigh in mid-February.

“They welcomed us and were most accommodating throughout the whole process of research and preparation,” says Viera. “Pearlstein is not only a distinguished artist, but a gracious person and we are very grateful for his generous spirit.”

The months-long Pearlstein exhibit will be combined with a series of lectures and workshops, Viera says.

“It is a fully integrated artistic experience for the Lehigh community and beyond,” he says.

Scheduled lectures will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Zoellner Lower Gallery and include:

• “Too Sexy for Words: The Daoist Body,” by Norman J. Girardot, University Distinguished Professor of Religion Studies, on Thursday, February 23rd

• “Architecture and the Body,” by Anthony Viscardi, chair and associate professor of art and architecture, on Thursday, March 2nd

• “The Female Nude in Art,” by Ann Priester, lecturer in art and architecture on Thursday, March 16th

The public is also invited to draw a leotard-clad model who will pose among selected Pearlstein studio props, in sessions moderated by advanced art students. The open workshops, which are limited to 25 participants, will run from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Zoellner Main Gallery on Thursday, Feb. 23rd, March 2nd and 16th.

A realist style of painting

Pearlstein started out as an expressionist landscape painter.

Pearlstein launched his career in the 1960s as an expressionist landscape painter, but evolved into a figurative artist who viewed his nude studio models as landscapes.

“I found that my models presented better picture ideas than I could dream up in my head,” he once said. “The models were like living landscapes and arranged like still lives in my studio. They constantly assumed other dimensions, other contours, and revealed other surfaces with their breathing, twitching, tensing and relaxation.”

A veteran of World War II, the Pittsburgh-born Pearlstein was profoundly influenced by the art he viewed in Italy and subsequently adopted a realist style, rejecting the American abstract expressionism of the 1950s and ‘60s. His figurative studies of nudes are composed with photographic-like cropping and shadowing, placed among studio objects to produce intricate patterns.

Pearlstein was educated at Carnegie Institute of Technology and NYU Institute of Fine Arts. He was professor of fine art and named Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn College. He taught at Pratt Institute and served as visiting critic at Yale University.

In 2003, Pearlstein was named president of the American Academy of Arts & Letters in New York. His works have been presented in more than 500 exhibitions worldwide and are included in the permanent collections of major institutions throughout Europe and the U.S. Discussions of the artist and his work have appeared in more than 300 periodicals and 200 books and catalogs. He has also authored 13 articles and three books and catalogs of his own work.

Gallery hours for the exhibit are as follows:
Zoellner Main Gallery: Wed-Sat., 11 am – 5pm, Sun. 1-5 pm
DuBois Gallery, Maginnes Hall: M – F: 9 am – 10 pm, Sat. 9-noon, Closed Sun.

For more information, visit the Pearlstein exhibit Web site or call (610) 758-3615.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2006

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