American, born 1943
Using industrial-grade steel plate to fabricate geometric abstract sculptures, Joel Perlman espoused the purely visual aesthetics championed by the critic Clement Greenberg (1909–1994), in which form takes precedence over subject.
Perlman’s works of the 1980s are pictorial; that is, they are essentially flat arrangements best seen from a frontal viewpoint, like a painting. He drew inspiration from the abstract compositions of the vanguard Russian artists Kasimir Malevich (1879–1935) and El Lissitzky (1890–1941). Although created in the 1910s and ’20s, their work—in which the purity of geometric forms is enlivened by being tilted on a diagonal axis—was rediscovered in the 1960s and ‘70s.
The composition of Square Tilt may owe a debt to the urban architecture of Manhattan, which Perlman could see through his studio windows. Though not meant to directly reference the soaring cityscape, Square Tilt and other works created at this time capture the characteristics of the city: powerful, broad, and monumental. Perlman allows the inherent strength and durability of the industrial steel to play a large role in the overall aesthetics.
Square Tilt typifies Perlman’s best-known compositions, which suggest portals or gateways: a square or rectangular frame surrounding a large opening. The sculpture functions as a window in any setting, offering viewers the opportunity to see through a physical and metaphoric portal. Seen indoors against a blank wall, the work invites appreciation of its abstract vivacity. In other settings, especially outdoors, the large central opening incorporates its environment. Square Tilt consequently carries connotations of openness, far horizons, and passage into other domains of perception and thought. Smaller, rectangles of steel plate are attached to the frame, introducing a harmonic interplay of forms. Despite its considerable size, Square Tilt conveys an impression of airy weightlessness.
Location: PCL Plaza