In 1949, at the age of 25, the now famous painter Philip Pearlstein worked for Ladislav Sutnar in New York. Between September 2019 and February 2020, curator Jan Van Woensel planned several telephone conversations and in-person meetings, in which Mr. Pearlstein shared his experiences as an assistant working in the Sutnar office. He had started in the field of design and picked up his basic design skills in the U.S. Army during World War II. Then, in a New York City that didn't yet have a well-established art scene, he gradually became a celebrated painter. Now 96 years of age, Philip Pearlstein's first exhibition in the Czech Republic displays a selection of reproduced sketches and graphic design works from the 1940's and '50's. Parallel to this unique exhibition is the release of the publication "Telephone calls", which offers remarkable insight into the early developments of the artistic career of Mr. Pearlstein, who talks warmly about his employer and friend Ladislav Sutnar.
Introductory speech of the curator
Everything started with this publication "Transport, next half century (1951 – 2000)" which was a collaboration between Ladislav Sutnar and the famous inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller, in 1949.
I discovered this publication, which is a rare find, a collector's item, a book that you can only find hidden in the archives of museums, and also in our faculty's Ladislav Sutnar archive. As I said, this book is from the year 1949. The subject of the book is Transport, the future of transportation, as imagined by the visionary Sutnar and Fuller, and it is surprisingly accurate, picturing radio-controlled missiles and the aerotropolis, the airport city, both examples of current times technological and urban developments.
Because this is a publication that is in fact globally underexposed, and it is the result of a unique collaboration between two masterminds of design and invention, we created a high quality, facsimile reproduction of Transport. 1000 copies, available here in the Gallery for a very low price.
When I spoke about the recreation of Transport to our colleague, Steven Heller at School of Visual Arts in New York, he said that the famous painter Philip Pearlstein "had something to do with this book". This was in September 2019, when I was in New York. I know Pearlstein as a painter of figures, but I had no idea about how he started his artistic career. So, I called him on his telephone, he answered, and we spoke for two hours...
He told me that in 1949, he and his girlfriend, the artist Dorothy Cantor, and their best friend from high-school, Andy Warhol, moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New York City to find work. Philip was introduced to Ladislav Sutnar, who had been in New York since 1939 and had established his design office. Andy Warhol, yes, you heard it right, the very famous artist, started working as a freelance illustrator. This was before he became the very famous king of Pop Art.
Philip indeed had something to do with the Transport publication, as Steve Heller told me. Transport, was the first assignment given to Philip who was a draftsman in the Sutnar office. Philip had to make the sketches of the Transport designs ready for printing; a highly, meticulous job, very strictly controlled by Sutnar, and of course, everything was drawn by hand and with analog tools.
Yes, this is all very super interesting, as you agree. Because Philip Pearlstein is one of the few people alive today who personally knew Ladislav Sutnar, and because he drafted the Transport publication in 1949, a project that was close to his heart, I decided that this was an excellent opportunity to organize this exhibition and create a new publication of my in total four telephone interviews with Philip.
In February of this year, Vojtěch Aubrecht and I traveled to the U.S.A. We met two times with Philip in his loft to talk more in person about his pre-war Pittsburgh memories, his time as a soldier in the second world war, the years that he worked for Ladislav Sutnar, and the friendship that had grown between them. Vojtěch made a series of portraits of Philip, a selection of which is shown in the exhibition and many of which are included in the publication "Philip Pearlstein, Telephone Calls", that I am proudly introducing to you too.
Born in 1924, Philip is now 96 years old, he paints every day of the week except Monday, listens to old jazz records, lives in an impressive loft in Manhattan that looks like a crowded vintage shop, showed the greatest hospitality to Vojtěch and me, and is grateful for having his first exhibition in Pilsen, without doubt the new epicenter of art...
Anyone interested in the Transport and the Telephone Calls publications, please ask me for more information. I hope you'll enjoy the exhibition...
Curator Jan Van Woensel
Photos of the author and studio: Vojtěch Aubrecht