1. Reviews

"Perelman is reinventing Abstract Expressionism for the 21st century."
Raphael Rubinstein, poet, critic, former senior editor Art in America, currently Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston

"Like his music, Perelman visual compositions soar and dip, break down into fields of spattered color, regain force to assert themselves with a moment of remarkable solidarity."
Eleanor Heartney, art critic/ Art in America contributing editor

"Like the best jazz improvisations, Perelman's paintings reflect a solid sense of compositional balance, a nuanced use of color and texture, and a kind of living energy...his visual art often conveys a clear emotional picture-from turbulence to sheer delight."
Sam Prestianni, Jazziz

"Perelman is a mighty unique and entirely original painter.His inspiration is amazing, and we can only say Maestro Ivo has been kissed by God."
Jurate Mcnoriute, Ph.D., The Secrets of Perfection

"Ivo"s artwork comes close to capturing what it feels like to bathe in Perelman's sanctified light."
David Keenan, The Wire

"The natural affinity of music and visual art has rarely ever been expressed as vividly as in the visual imagery created by noted jazz saxophonist Ivo Perelman."
Shary Klamer, Artistic Licensing

"The non-objective drawings and paintings of Ivo Perelman succesfully remove the viewer from the complexities of the concrete universe into a realm of music-induced abstraction.His works are highly expressive and graphic compossitions."
Richard McBee, The Jewish Press Magazine

2. Ivo Perelman

To rephrase Kipling, conventional wisdom maintains that "art is art and music is music, and never the twain shall meet." Art, after all, exists in space, while music unfolds in time. Art appeals to the sense of sight while music appeals to the ear. An art work can be viewed all at once, while a piece of music is inseparable from the succession of moments which it fills. 

And yet, the two disciplines seem to exhibit an insatiable longing to meld into each other. This is obvious from the language used to discuss each art form. Music writers often take the poetic liberty of speaking of the colors of notes and phrases, while art critics have embraced the word tone, which originated as a musical term, to discuss the subtle shading of light and darkness in a particular hue. The movement of brush strokes across a canvas is frequently described in ways that draw on musical metaphors - critics speak of crescendos of color, lilting lines, dancing rhythms. Conversely, the range of polyphonic sounds in a musical work are referred to as its sonic spectrum, while an emphasis on the lower registers is said to darken the palette of the work as a whole. 

But the mysterious affinity of music and art isn't limited to the realm of metaphor. Artists on both sides of the divide have frequently crossed the line which separates one side to the other. Musicians like Mussorgsky and Debussy attempted to recreate paintings in sound. For their part, many contemporary artists have embraced jazz as a source of inspiration for paintings and sculptures. The smoky clubs where jazz musicians and jazz lovers congregate, the intense concentration displayed by the individual saxophonist or piano player, and even the syncopated sounds which issue forth from their instruments have all formed the subject matter for artists like Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, Romare Bearden and Stuart Davis. Some artists have gone even further, creating sculptures which can be played like instruments, and designing color organs and other devices which mechanically translate sound into color. 

Given these interconnections, it was perhaps inevitable that saxophonist Ivo Perelman would find himself drawn into the world of visual art. Perelman's own music, a form of free jazz, bears striking parallels with Abstract Expressionism, the influential art movement which emerged in the United States in the late 1940s. Just as Perelman's music grows out of his liberation of the improvisational impulse from musical conventions like chord changes, steady beat, and tonality, Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler and Franz Kline dispensed with the conventions of traditional representation in order to showcase the raw energy which went into the painting's creation. Pollock's work, in particular, with its whiplash lines, spatters of color and free flowing drips of paint, suggests an analogy with the careening melody lines and sprays of sound which make up Perelman's music. 

Inspired by a writer's suggestion of his affinity with Abstract Expressionism, Perelman has begun to experiment with painting himself, translating his range of musical effects into visual form. The intense flows and abrupt breaks of sound which emerge from his saxophone are reborn as zigzagging lines of color flung on the canvas from a loaded brush or spit from his mouth. The layers of sound produced by the melody's interplay with bass and drums have their counterpart in the layers of colors which lead one's eye in and out of the tangled skeins of paint. Some of the paintings are full of agitated energy, while others are more lyrical, creating a visual moment of near silence. Like his music, Perelman's visual compositions soar and dip, break down into fields of spattered color, regain force to assert themselves with a moment of remarkable solidarity. 

When completed, the paintings serve as records of various psychic states. One work, an abstracted self portrait, is dominated by thick pools of brilliant red. These spill over a dark, deeply layered ground. With a little imagination, one can make out an eye, a mouth and the schematic outline of a saxophone. The sense of emotional heat in this painting is in sharp contrast with another one in which smudges of yellow and blue appear upon a largely white background, creating an effect which is almost zen-like in its expanses of emptiness. Yet another work is at once serene and active, consisting of calligraphic whiplashes of black paint flung over a brushy blue background. 

For Perelman, the experience of painting is very similar to the experience of making music. He throws himself into the process, in a sense becoming one with the notes or the paint. In this he brings to mind the unforgettable description of Abstract Expressionism provided by one of the movement's most illustrious advocates. Abstract Expressionism, said Harold Rosenberg, is a form of "action painting". It reflects a moment when the canvas became "an arena in which to act -- rather than as a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or 'express' an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on a canvas was not a picture but an event." 

The key to Perelman's creative output, whether it takes the form of painting or music, is always improvisation. In his music, one note leads to another, as the music itself draws him along. The paintings evolve in the same way. Instead of working from some preconceived artistic idea, Perelman lets the flowing, skittering, dancing paint tell him what to do next. Each painting is like a performance -- a set of actions in time which can happen in that particular way only once. 

In both painting and music, Perelman refuses to accept the concept of limits. He experiments with combinations of sound and combinations of color without regard to traditional notions of harmony or propriety. In this he embraces a precept voiced by another of the Abstract Expressionists - the sculptor David Smith. "Art," Smith noted, "is born of freedom and liberty and dies of constraint." 

Eleanor Heartney is a New York City based art critic and contributing editor to Art in America.