Irving Petlin (born December 17, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois) 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.
In 1964, his work was shown at the Hanover Gallery in London and Galerie du Dragon in Paris, where he has a strong influence on the definition of the Nouvelle Figuration movement. The same year, he was invited to teach at UCLA as a visiting artist, along with artists Richard Diebenkorn and Llyn Foulkes. While in California, Petlin became the principal organizer of the Artist’s Protest movement against the war in Vietnam, and, in open meetings held at the Dwan Gallery, of which John Weber is the director, founds the Artists’ Protest Committee. He planned the Peace Tower with help of Mark di Suvero, as well as Philip Lieder, Craig Kauffman, Larry Bell, Walter Hopps, Rolf Nelson, Judy Chicago, Lloyd Hamrol, Hardy Hanson, Eric Orr, Tanya Nuefeld, and others. “The Artists’ Call” for the tower is published in four languages, and works arrive from all over the world to be attached to it. The finished tower, was dedicated by Susan Sontag and untimately attacked overnight. The following year, in 1965, Irving Petlin had his first major one-man exhibition held at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels. Shortly thereafter, he returned to New York with his family and moved into an apartment on West 11th Street. At this time, his growing commitment to the American milieu resulted in the completion of the painting "The Burning of Los Angeles."
A one-man exhibition opens in 1966 at the Rolf Nelson Gallery in Los Angeles, and the Odyssia Gallery in New York shows his works in 1967. 1967-87 During this period, Petlin is a founder and a participant in Artists and Writers Against the War in Vietnam, and the Art Workers Coalition, the Art Strike, the Moratorium, the Venise Biennale 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".
Petlin has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Cooper Union in New York, as well as the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia. He currently resides in Paris, New York and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
- Palmer, Michael. Active Boundaries: Selected Essays and Talks. New York: New Directions Publishing, 2008. p. 164
- "Irving Petlin: A retrospective". Absolutearts.com. 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2014-06-02.
- International School of Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture in Umbria, Italy[dead link]
- Petlin sites and artist pages
- Irving Petlin Artist Page
- Irving Petlin: A Retrospective Artist Page at Jan Krugier Gallery website
- Irving Petlin on artnet
- Others on Petlin, including reviews & perspectives
- "Irving Petlin: The Committed Brushstroke by Peter Selz.
- 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
- Irving Petlin at Kent 2010 on YouTube 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