Perlman’s show celebrates his career

After 25 years on the staff of the art department, Mark Perlman, Sonoma State professor of studio art, was honored with an exhibit that had its opening reception on Nov. 7 at the University Art gallery. 

Entitled “Mark Perlman: A 25 Year Survey,” the works and pieces of Perlman were displayed all around, each one presenting a different sort of aura. The paintings ranged in sizes from small pictures to panels coming close to a mural.

The art was almost an experimental approach to painting. The way Perlman did his pieces was almost similar to the way a musician would write a musical piece. He uses different techniques with brushes and strokes, staying true to a few primary colors that serve as a foreground to the art. 

A glossy finish would make some colors recede to a sort of dim tint, while a brighter wax and varnish is layered over that. The beeswax added a shine and with the lighting in the gallery made the bold colors pop out. 

It built what Michael Schwager, the director of the University Art Gallery referred to as “a study in contrasts.” Just like establishing a count and rhythm with technique then abiding to rules of notes like the rules of color, Perlman creates long extensive pieces that take several months in the making at times. 

Perlman compared it to living in a house your whole life and then having to walk through it blindly. 

“You know where everything is,” said Perlman. “You just have to watch the stairs, if that makes any sense.”

It’s a fitting statement for the way this creator of abstract art goes about his work. It’s the same surface each time, a panel. He described when working with a panel he would set it at different angles, whether it was leaning on a wall or had it flat on the ground. Perlman knew the surface well; he just takes different colors and let’s the wrist strokes do the work, adding shapes where he pleases and dots here and there. There is a freedom that lies in his style and fashion of creating these encaustic portraits.

Standing in front of these pieces and looking closely at them, one would find themselves seeing new things about them each time. Whether looking at it as a whole, or getting close at one of the shapes that seem to be windows of other landscapes with an open mind, these paintings incite imagination and appreciation. Their names contain one to three words at times and suggest one general thought for the piece, making for an applicable title. 

The northwest corner contained an arrangement of smaller pieces, each one numbered with a figure of inspiration to Perlman on a list. There were members of his family, friends and colleagues, as well as other idols of music, art and literature. 

The roots of Perlman’s inspiration come from anywhere. And yet his art contains the days of his past when he was in the process of creating them. 

Perhaps they are more of a personal thing for him and thus are a way of expression that people could spend time to observe and dwell on. It’s a form of art of discovering the creator in oneself, putting their own thoughts into each bit of the piece, but trying not to go too far in one direction and rather save room for a union in the art.

Each painting creates an image as a whole and remains objective to the eyes, allowing to self-interpretation to the beholder. I stood there for quite some time staring at one piece called “Constat” with its deep intricacies of design and small windows of symbol-resembling patterns, and a focal point I saw as a face singing “Oh!” with eyes that popped out. 

One can look at it from a distance and see an entire scene of radiance and color, or up close at the inner detail to the small splotches, the color schemes inside the multiple shapes and the glow of the glossy finish.

“Mark Perlman: A 25 Year Survey” will run until Dec. 15 and is on display to the public at the University Art Galley inside the Art Building.