Perle Fine, Still Cool After All These Years
By Jennifer Landes | December 1, 2011 - 11:31am
The photographs in the Spanierman catalogue say it all. There she is with Hans Hofmann in his Provincetown, Mass., studio, then with Willem de Kooning in Springs, in a photo shoot with Ad Reinhardt, arm in arm with Lee Krasner, or standing confidently with her hand on her hip on an East Hampton beach with some of the greatest artists of the period in a 1962 Hans Namuth photograph.
Perle Fine working in her Springs studio. Her “Cool Series” of paintings,
completed between 1961 and 1963, includes, below left to right,
“Cool Series (Black Over Green),” “Cool Series (Blue Over Red),”
and “Cool Series, No. 29, Cool Blue/Cold Green.” Maurice Berezov
Perle Fine was an artist who mattered, not just here, where she made a home and studio in Springs from 1954 until her death in 1988, but everywhere. A retrospective that was shown on Long Island in 2009 will still be making its way around the country in small venues through next year. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the National Gallery of Art, among many others.
No one ever said she never got her due. She was respected by her colleagues and her work was exhibited often during her life in solo shows at the places that mattered: Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery and the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, Betty Parsons, and Tanager. She was one of the few women — invited by de Kooning no less — to join the club, a group of artists who gathered at Eighth Street in New York to discuss and debate the tendencies in art beginning in 1949.
By the late 1960s the Archives of American Art was interviewing her and asking to borrow her papers to microfilm for future research. The quotes included in this article are from that interview.
Her “Cool Series” of Color Field paintings made from 1961 to 1963 in Springs is the subject of an exhibit in New York at Spanierman Modern. Cool is a good name for them. Geometric, linear, boldly colored, the hard lines are anything but timid, yet not over showy either. They are the work of an artist confident in who she is and in her message of balance and purity.
Fine noted that in all of her work, “Color is always a motivation. Mixing color, you know, is a very joyous occupation for me because there was so much excitement at what would happen when one color was placed next to another . . . there was so much more than just what came out of the tube.”
For the artist herself, there was so much more. She could be alternatively minimal and maximal, geometric and gestural, a weaver in and out of styles with amazing fluidity. Seen in her Springs studio or out and about in East Hampton with a bandanna hair kerchief and jeans or in the city in a skirt, sweater set, and pearls, she had an equal balance of bohemian and classic metropolitan style.