JED PERL, “The Finest American (Art) Critic at work today,” discusses ALEXANDER CALDER’s early years…

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The Norfolk Society of Arts was pleased to host Jed Perl as our October speaker.

Born in New York City to parents who were artistically and intellectually inclined, Perl went to museums and concerts and talked about ideas from an early age.

He drew and painted as a child and young adult.  But he also had early leaning towards critical writing.  In his words, he was always interested in the “intense experiences” that the arts, in all their forms, can provide.

He wrote movie reviews for his high school newspaper and art criticism for the Columbia Spectator at Columbia College where he attended as a student.

It comes as no surprise, then that Mr. Perl grew up to become what one reviewer at The Atlantic described as perhaps “the finest American critic at work today in any field.”

Mr. Perl began writing for The New Criterion in the early eighties and eventually became the art critic for The New Republic, a post he held for twenty years.  He was a contributing editor for Vogue for ten years and currently publishes regularly in the New York Review of Books.

He is a professor at the New School in NYC where he teaches and, very importantly, mentors young people interested in pursuing careers in the creative professions.

He has written several historical books including New Art City:  Manhattan art Mid-Century, which was a 2005 New York Times Notable Book.  He has also written several collections of criticism, as well as edited a nine hundred page anthology on art in America from 1945 to 1970.

Most notably for us, he just recently produced his first work of biography, the monumental first volume of Alexander Calder’s life, entitled, Calder:  The conquest of Time:  The Early Years:  1898-1940.

In her review of the book, the novelist Fran Lebowitz writes, “All artists are critics, but very few critics are artists.  Jed Perl is one of those few.”

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