Irving Petlin (born December 17, 1934 in Chicago, Il) is an American artist and painter renowned for his mastery of the pastel medium and collaborations with other artists (including Mark di Suvero and Leon Golub) and for his work in the "series form" in which he uses the raw material of pastel, oil paint and unprimed linen, and finds inspiration in the work of writers and poets including Primo Levi, Bruno Schulz, Paul Celan, Michael Palmer and Edmond Jabès.
Petlin attended the Art Institute of Chicago from 1953-1956 where he received his BFA during the height of the Chicago Imagist movement. At a critical juncture Petlin attended Yale to study under Josef Albers, subsequently earning his MFA in 1960. Since the 1960s, Petlin has been a leader in artists' political activism when he became one of the founding members of "Artists and Writers Against the War in Vietnam", and then helped to create the Peace Tower in 1966, and the iconic anti-Vietnam War poster "And babies" in 1969. Petlin continued his militant interventions after the 1960s through such activities as his participation in the "Artists' Call Against the U.S. Intervention in Central America".
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 himself has described this approach as an “interrogation of memory” that constantly leads him to further exploration. According to Petlin, artists have a particular social duty to explore themes of injustice. One such work, The Entry of Christ into Washington (After Ensor), is a reflection on post-9/11 American politics, the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan.
Petlin has taught at Dartmouth College, UCLA, the University of Haifa, the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as at the Art Institute of Chicago. He lives and works in NYC, Martha's Vineyard, and Paris.
- Palmer, Michael. Active Boundaries: Selected Essays and Talks. New York: New Directions Publishing, 2008. p. 164
- Irving Petlin: A retrospective
- International School of Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture in Umbria, Italy
- Jan Krugier Gallery, Irving Petlin: A Retrospective
- Petlin sites and artist pages
- Kent Fine Art Artist Page
- Irving Petlin: A Retrospective Artist Page at Jan Krugier Gallery website
- Irving Petlin on artnet
- Vermont Studio Center: Artist page
- Others on Petlin, including reviews & perspectives
- Irving Petlin, Este Mundo by Carrie Moyer at The Brooklyn Rail
- from Nomadics Blog: 3 Irving Petlin Shows in New York poet Pierre Joris provides links and commentary on his blog to the 3 major Petlin shows that occurred in New York City in early 2010
- Press: Three essays on Petlin link provides access to free PDF online versions of seminal Petlin retrospectives by Edward Fry (from the Wiesswald exhibition catalogue), Paul Cummings ("The Precincts of Light"), and Michael Palmer ("A Bonfire in the Starry Night")
- The Unbearable Yet Obligatory, And other shows of modern and contemporary works
- Studio Matters, Arts & Commentary: Irving Petlin’s paintings; Bernardo Siciliano’s girlie pix; a Leonardo da Vinci for Times Square by Maureen Mullarkey
- Petlin in his own words
- Kent Gallery Exhibition Catalogue of Major Paintings, 1979-2009 Click here for free PDF online publication of 90 pages that documented in full those works included in the Kent Gallery exhibition from 2010, including Petlin's own commentaries and complete biographical information on the artist
- 1000 words: Peace Tower; Irving Petlin, Mark di Suvero, and Rirkrit Tiravanija revisit The Artists' Tower of Protest, 1966 includes extensive transcript of Petlin in his own words
- YouTube: Irving Petlin at Kent 2010 Petlin discusses some of his work as he walks around the Kent Gallery in 2010
- In Conversation: Irving Petlin with John Yau renowned poet/art critic & Art Editor for The Brooklyn Rail John Yau interviews Petlin in 2006