Irving Petlin, American (1934 - )

Irving Petlin

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"

Irving Petlin (b.1934, Chicago, IL) received a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago/U. of Chicago and an MFA from Yale (Albers). He is represented by Galerie Jan Krugier-Francois Ditesheim, Geneva, and has exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. Collections include MOMA, the Metropolitan Musuem, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He is a member of the VSC Artists’ Advisory Committee. Petlin lives and works in NYC, Martha’s Vineyard, and Paris

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, as well as at the Art Institute of Chicago. He lives and works in NYC, Martha’s Vineyard, and Paris.

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