Square Tilt Audio Guide

Joel Perlman

American, born 1943

Square Tilt

120 × 96 × 36 inches

Photography not permitted
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. L. William Teweles, 1986

Location: PCL Plaza
GPS: 30.283087,-97.73797
Audio file

Valerie Fletcher: Joel Perlman like Anthony Caro, Robert Murray, and many other sculptors of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s believe in geometric abstraction as the style, the form most appropriate to our modern era. Abstraction was considered by many artists to be comparable to many of the accomplishments of the modern era. For example, Morse code, computer code, other means of communication that is not literal. Abstraction is considered the visual equivalent of such other languages, which are not at first glance understandable.

Joel Perlman, however, liked to create works that focused on the idea of a window or gateway or a portal. Square Tilt is typical of his works of the 1980s, in which he set up a frame, in this case almost a perfect square, set it on an angle, a tilt and then applied other linear and rectangular elements, flat ones, to this flat square frame. These compositions read beautifully from the front and from the back; from either side they almost disappear into a line or two. When you look at them from the front or back, however, you see them possibly as the equivalent for a window onto a vista, but you can also see them as abstract compositions in which the geometric forms play well with each other.

In this way, he was inspired by the early masters of abstraction, especially the Russians Suprematists and Constructivists who believed that using such forms would help to inspire and educate people to think on a higher plane, a higher level of awareness. Square Tilt, although it’s made of heavy sheet steel, does have a lightness, a perkiness, and it does question whether abstract art is viable in its own right as a pleasing composition or does it gain because it is contrast to its environment. When placed in front of a modern building for example, its forms are in harmony with the geometric style of most modern buildings. When placed in an open space or even a country space you then see people and landscape through it and it integrates the natural with the artificial.