"Don Perlis (born 1941 Bronx, lives and works in New York) has given the title of its most important painting, "Trumpworld", to his solo show at the Firecat Gallery in Chicago. Naturally, it has caused discussions on the subject.
Bereft of conventions, as had been the Buddhas, the Madonnas, the Avant-gardes, even the Isms of the recent past, to support their gaze, the spectators of our time are desperately striving to hang onto some motif, any motif to look at visual art. But visual art retains the privilege of being visual, that is, of transcending its subject, whether it is a technical or a literary or political theme or something else. It either transcends it or it drowns in the swamp of no infamy and no praise like most of us artists of the competent yawn. Today's spectator has the fortune, unique in history, to be able to look at art without external guides but this fills him with fear.
Many artists respond to this situation by feeding the audience's desire for support: despite the risks, they sometimes explain with theoretical descriptions how one should to look at their work, other times they even cage their images inside narratives woven into the works. It is the case of "Trumpworld". To entitle a painting after the name and image of Trump, to place his image grandly at the center of the composition, means to draw attention to periodic news at the expense of the rich wonders of painting.
Perlis is a painter in the strong tradition of American social realism. His work is a relaunch of the Ashcan School of painting that flourished in the first half of the twentieth century, especially on the east coast of the continent. He went to study the great late nineteenth century Thomas Eakins, spent countless hours in museums and European churches learning from their immense vocabulary of forms and symbols, shadows, lights, body and transparencies. He then took the baggage of observations he has harvested and translates it into these paintings of his, that mythicize the common life of the American cauldron. The flying angels of Tintoretto or the Carracci become rap dancers who acrobatize in the subway cars, the crowdings of Bosch morph into Times Square: Batman next to the red teddy bear, a policeman who seems to come out of the illustrations of Norman Rockwell, dressed men who titillate or watch naked women, the nudistas, the long and dry Uncle Sam walking on stilts dressed in the US flag, the tourists, voyeurs unaware of their being not people but consumer products. But what attracts someone like me to the point of writing about it? Perlis is not a cold schemer, he works with passion in a petty artworld that can not but ignore him; unlike the past models he has chosen, his painting is not pleasant but is powerful, it’s subtle but also physical, full of pentimento – the Renaissance definition of when the painter changes his mind but lets the visible record of such change be seen; instead of applying refined glazes he throws himself into adding brushstrokes where they are needed without regard to the rules. Despite the anecdotal themes, his is painting that transcends them."