new-york

Irving Petlin

Odyssia Gallery

Irving Petlin’s artificts are made with pastel and are unique among the species because of their delicacy and the constant threat of smudging. In this sense, they are like cave paintings which threaten to decompose in your presence. You’re afraid to breathe on them for fear a change of atmosphere would dissolve them.

They also have a pictographic quality because they are allegorical. The allegory of Petlin’s The Drawing Lesson: the artist’s tools are over-scale and too big to wield; chairs are adult-scale, bodies are child-scale; there are no interior spaces—everything is exterior. Nothing’s the right size. Tools and furnishings can’t be used. There’s no inside to run to in escape of this desolation. Everything’s exposed.

A profound sense of dislocation and dreaminess—sometimes it’s hallucination—informs this work. The colors, as Hayden Herrera has remarked, are astringent. Yellow, not the

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.