Irving Penn: Paintings
Pace Gallery, New York
September 13–October 13, 2018
This September, Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery will present the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Irving Penn’s paintings. Internationally renowned for his work as a photographer, Penn initially set out to be a painter and worked in the medium at the beginning and end of his career. Although some of Penn’s paintings were reproduced in books during his lifetime, this important body of work has remained largely unknown.
Encompassing approximately 30 works made between 1987 and 2006, the exhibition will showcase Penn’s mixed-media paintings and highlight the artist’s approach to materials, form, and color. Penn made many of his paintings by converting a drawing into a print for use as the underlying structure for a painting.
Drawing inspiration from leading 20th century figures such as Henri Matisse, Giorgio Morandi, and Fernand Léger, Penn’s bold and unusual paintings diverge from the striking and smooth style of his photographs while sharing their rigor and innovative spirit.
The exhibition will be on view at Pace Gallery, 32 East 57th Street from September 13–October 13, 2018, with an opening reception on Wednesday, September 12 from 6–8 pm.
A 104-page hardcover catalogue with 47 illustrations, including 39 full-page reproductions, will be published to coincide with the exhibition. It will feature the first scholarship on Penn’s painting practice, with essays by writer and curator, David Campany, and legacy program manager at The Irving Penn Foundation, Alexandra Dennett; with afterwords by Arne Glimcher, Pace Gallery founder, and Peter MacGill, Pace/MacGill Gallery founder.
Produced by Sandra M. Klimt, Klimt Studio, Inc. and designed by Malcolm Grear Designers, the catalogue is printed by Meridian Printing with four-color separations by Martin Senn.
It is published by Apparition, an imprint of The Irving Penn Foundation,in association with Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery.
The catalogue will be released in September 2018.
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Penn's Painting Practice
As a young man, after graduating from the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art in 1938, Irving Penn harbored dreams of becoming a painter. In 1941–42, he spent a year in Mexico painting, but he found his results to be disappointing and destroyed all but a small group of drawings. Despite this repudiation, drawing continued to play an important role for Penn in his subsequent work as a photographer as he worked out an image and its composition.
Following his retrospective exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1984, Penn returned to painting after more than forty years. He developed unique working methods, inspired by his experiences printing photographs in platinum and palladium metals.
In the period between 1986 and 2000, he photographed drawings to convert them into the underlying structure for paintings. By reproducing the drawings as platinum-palladium prints, he enlarged their scale and emphasized the graphic quality of their lines. Penn then used the resulting print as a matrix, painting over it using combinations of watercolor, ink, dry pigments, and gum arabic.
After 2000, when Penn ceased platinum-palladium printing, he began making inkjet prints from scanned drawings. He also produced freehand paintings using no photographic or printing processes. Examples of all these methods will be on display in the exhibition at Pace Gallery, at 32 East 57th Street, New York, from September 13 through October 13, 2018.