Irving Petlin

Irving Petlin, who was born in Chicago in 1934, has no living rival in the medium of pastel. Over a long and successful career that began in Chicago in the late fifties, grew in Paris in the early sixties, brought him to Los Angeles in the mid-sixties, saw him in New York from 1967 until 1989, and finds him now again in Paris, Petlin has been recognized a master of his craft. Much of his work is marked by a subtle and persistent commitment to history and its telling. All of his work breathes poetry. And it is in the pastel medium that Petlin’s technical refinement and poetic sensibility are on full display. Past suites of pastels have been inspired and dedicated to Primo Levi, Bruno Schulz, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabès, and Johann Sebastian Bach. This current suite, Storms, inspired and dedicated to Odilon Redon, brings Petlin back full cycle to the very beginnings of his life as an artist, when he was a high school student taking classes in the school of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was in the Institute’s Drawing Room that Petlin first discovered Redon. Years later Petlin would describe the encounter with Redon’s work as “looking into a pool of water . . . down towards the bottom [where] you see your own shape.” It was there that Petlin first took the measure of himself, his craft, his art.