Philip Pearlstein in his studio; © 2005 Brian Rigney Hubbard
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The subject of the great Italian painter Giorgio Morandi came up in class the other day. “Poor guy”, clucked a student, “stuck painting those bottles and boxes his whole damned life”. The misgivings of a twenty-year old art major is a topic for another day, but it did set me to wonder what this burgeoning painter might think of Philip Pearlstein. Pearlstein has, after all, been “stuck” painting those nudes in the studio his whole damned life–or for the past fifty years or so.
He’s still at it. Pearlstein’s recent efforts, on display at Betty Cuningham Gallery, offer an object lesson in persistence and concentration. His signature arrays of reclining models, vintage toys and abruptly cropped compositions are typically parched in surface and affect, but they’ve taken on an eccentricity that is increasingly gaining in sharpness, density and nuance. It’s enough to make me forgive his poaching my two favorite models, Kika and Simone.