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Philip Pearlstein + Helen Frankenthaler
at Talley Dunn Gallery through December 10
by Todd Camplin

I can’t believe I was able to see two complete shows of paintings by Philip Pearlstein and woodcuts
of Helen Frankenthaler in one place, but only the Talley Dunn Gallery could deliver such an epic
duel exhibition. I felt like I was transported to the Fort Worth Modern or maybe even the MOMA in
New York City. The show was something to behold, because it was full of surprises.
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I had this romantic notion that Philip Pearlstein was an extremely meticulous photorealist. I’d
seen several books on his work, but had never experienced the work in person. Now, his work
in the 1970’s might have been photorealistic, but his current work uses more loose brush strokes
and you can really experience the paint on the surface of the canvas. I even saw a painting
of a rug overlap a person’s leg. This unexpectedly painterly style made the work a little more
informal and playful.
Philip Pearlstein (image courtesy of the artist)
Model with Dreadlocks and Whitehouse Birdhouse, 2000
Oil on canvas / 48 x 60 inches
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Philip Pearlstein (image courtesy of the artist)
Model with Chrome Chair, Kiddie Car, Kimono and Bambino, 2008
Oil on canvas / 60 x 42 inches
Helen Frankenthaler (image courtesy of the artist) - Book of Clouds, 2007
Aquatint etching, woodcut and pochoir with hand coloring
35 5/8 x 68 1/4 inches / Edition 19 of 30
Helen Frankenthaler has to be categorized as an Abstract Expressionist and a Color Field artist
and these two descriptions are good and important, but they don’t quite cover all the subtle
nuances that come into play with her work. I find a lot of her paintings to have this translucent
quality that seems to make the work more like water colors. The abstract objects are not over
worked in an emotional battle, but more laid on with a flowing expression of spontaneity. In
one of the works, a simulated brush stroke, like Lichtenstein, has appeared and another wood
cut reflects the look of wood grain. These elements creeping into her work are important,
because Frankenthaler has embraced mixing styles of many contemporary artists, which
continues to make her work fresh and very relevant.
Helen Frankenthaler (image courtesy of the artist) Japanese Maple, 2005
Sixteen color Ukiyo-e style woodcut printed with nine
woodblocks on Torinoko paper mounted onto Hahnemuhle paper
26 x 38 inches
Edition 43 of 50

Now if you’re familiar with Pearlstein’s work, you know that he is still cropping figures at
odd angles with the edge of the canvas, but he also crops the models with what looks
to be antiques. One picture even uses a mirror effect to crop a foot in an odd direction.
The compositions of Pearlstein’s paintings are pure genius. He uses the unique items and
people as overlapping lines. I get the feeling that figures and objects are equally
important. It is almost as if these paintings are complex figure-ground relationships,
and the background shapes switch perception with the figure.
Although Pearlstein’s and Frankenthaler’s style and approach differ in such radical ways, and
seeing these two together in separate galleries of Talley Dunn Gallery was really quite exciting.
I learned a great deal more about the artists just by viewing the works. Just goes to show, a
book of artists’ work is no substitute to experiencing the real thing. The Pearlstein and
Frankenthaler exhibition will be up until December 10th.    
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by
Todd Camplin