Bernard Perlin is an artist whose name is not as well-known as some of his so-called most intimate companions in the field of the arts, men like Aaron Copland, Christopher Isherwood, Truman Capote, Leonard Bernstein, Vincent Prince, Clifton Webb, Paul Cadmus and George Platt Lynes.
In the ravishing new Bruno Gmünder book One-Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, biographer (and visual curator) Michael Schreiber sets about correcting that oversight, cataloguing exhaustively the work produced by the artistic and sexual renegade, who died in 2014 at the ripe old age of 95.
Perlin got his big break creating U.S. propaganda during WWII, including the famous Let 'Em Have It war bonds ad depicted above. His work went on to encapsulate a growing sexual tension via unique male nudes (some seen as props in Lynes images), unromantic portraiture, haunting still lifes.
To my amazement, I figured out that a Lynes image I own — depicting a nude man against a graffitied wall — was a collboration; the wall was by Perlin, and it looks both authentic and stylized.
From Schreiber's intro:
...Bernard Perlin was an inveterate explorer, one who reveled in pushing social, sexual, political, and creative boundaries. It's no wonder that critics of his art, while applauding individual works and even entire, small-scale one-man shows of his paintings, often complained that his body of work, when assessed as a whole, seemed to lack cohesion from one show to the next. Bernard shifted styles and themes often throughout his long career, making him truly difficult to categorize.
That shapeshifting quality leads to an incredibly rich book with surprises on every page.
The book is a stunning collection of the remarkable work of a gay man that is enhanced by interviews, unseen personal photos and Schreiber's love of his subect — which is something that makes any book of this nature indispensable.