PHILIP PEARLSTEIN | TWO MODELS ON A MEXICAN RUG | CHRISTIE’S AUCTION HOUSE

 

My friend Tyler invited me out to crawl the major auction houses before their fall sales, and we spent the day between Sotheby’s and Christie’s. It was in the afternoon, as we slogged through room after room of Christie’s major contemporary art sale, that we came across this work. Tyler had already seen it, and he directed my attention to the model’s thumb, which Pearlstein had expertly severed from the picture plane. This work, more than any other that I saw, spoke to me.

Philip Pearlstein holds a strange position in contemporary art. He’s a 93 year-old legend who has influenced a great many painters. He’s also somewhat off the grid. He doesn’t have the mainstream cachet of your Johnathan Katz or your Alice Neel, and yet I find his mature works, like this one, truly remarkable.

 

It’s not just Pearlstein’s treatment of flesh, which masterfully renders skin and bones and blood and organs into rippling, near-vibrating piles of life, or his deft use of color and pattern; it’s the way he contorts the picture plane. This, I’d hazard, explains his fondness for rocking chairs. My favorite moment in this painting, for instance, is how the model in the chair pushes off the ground, and in doing so cants the rocking chair backwards. But it almost feels as if the whole canvas cants with her–it peels up, like a wave about to crest. This is something I’ve noticed with a lot of Pearlstein paintings. They induce a rather vertiginous sensation.

 

This is how Pearlstein manipulates depth and space on canvas, how he pulls his compositions into dynamic postures. Another work of his, this one at the Brooklyn Museum, does something very similar. Here again we see a model in a rocking chair, and again we see the model “push the floor away,” and again it feels not so much that the model moves her body as that she moves everything around it–the entire world even. If you really look at the BKM’s Pearlstein, it is rather remarkable to note how the floor is painted on such a steep grade. What’s keeping that model in the chair? What’s keeping the chair on the floor? Is this why she grips the rails so intensely? Pearlstein has a unique interest in space, I’d reckon. Not so much how we fit into it as how it fits into us.

Four on the Floor #3

Philip Pearlstein | Celeste Dupuy-Spencer | Sanford Biggers | Alighiero Boetti

Philip Pearlstein, Two Models with Mexican Rug, 1983. Courtesy of Christie’s Auction House.

Philip Pearlstein, Two Models with Mexican Rug, 1983. Courtesy of Christie’s Auction House.

Philip Pearlstein, Female Model on Platform Rocker, 1977-78. Courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.

Philip Pearlstein, Female Model on Platform Rocker, 1977-78. Courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.

Philip Pearlstein, Two Models with Mexican Rug, 1983. Courtesy of Christie’s Auction House.

PHILIP PEARLSTEIN | TWO MODELS ON A MEXICAN BLANKET | CHRISTIE’S

 

My friend Tyler invited me out to crawl the major auction houses before their fall sales, and we spent the day between Sotheby’s and Christie’s. It was in the afternoon, as we slogged through room after room of Christie’s major contemporary art sale, that we came across this work. Tyler had already seen it, and he directed my attention to the model’s thumb, which Pearlstein had expertly severed from the picture plane. This work, more than any other that I saw, spoke to me.

Philip Pearlstein, Two Models with Mexican Rug, 1983. Courtesy of Christie’s Auction House.

Philip Pearlstein holds a strange position in contemporary art. He’s a 93 year-old legend who has influenced a great many painters. He’s also somewhat off the grid. He doesn’t have the mainstream cachet of your Johnathan Katz or your Alice Neel, and yet I find his mature works, like this one, truly remarkable.

It’s not just Pearlstein’s treatment of flesh, which masterfully renders skin and bones and blood and organs into rippling, near-vibrating piles of life, or his deft use of color and pattern; it’s the way he contorts the picture plane. This, I’d hazard, explains his fondness for rocking chairs. My favorite moment in this painting, for instance, is how the model in the chair pushes off the ground, and in doing so cants the rocking chair backwards. But it almost feels as if the whole canvas cants with her–it peels up, like a wave about to crest. This is something I’ve noticed with a lot of Pearlstein paintings. They induce a rather vertiginous sensation.

Philip Pearlstein, Female Model on Platform Rocker, 1977-78. Courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.

This is how Pearlstein manipulates depth and space on canvas, how he pulls his compositions into dynamic postures. Another work of his, this one at the Brooklyn Museum, does something very similar. Here again we see a model in a rocking chair, and again we see the model “push the floor away,” and again it feels not so much that the model moves her body as that she moves everything around it–the entire world even. If you really look at the BKM’s Pearlstein, it is rather remarkable to note how the floor is painted on such a steep grade. What’s keeping that model in the chair? What’s keeping the chair on the floor? Is this why she grips the rails so intensely? Pearlstein has a unique interest in space, I’d reckon. Not so much how we fit into it as how it fits into us.

 

Four on the Floor #3

Philip Pearlstein | Celeste Dupuy-Spencer | Sanford Biggers | Alighiero Boetti

Philip Pearlstein, Female Model on Platform Rocker, 1977-78. Courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.

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and we'll send you the next issue of Four On The Floor. It's a great way to discover lesser known artists, and to keep pace with the city's art-world. It's also totally free, a lot of fun, and you can opt-out at any time.

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and we'll send you the next issue of Four On The Floor. It's a great way to discover lesser known artists, and to keep pace with the city's art-world. It's also totally free, a lot of fun, and you can opt-out at any time.

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