ABOUT ERIC PENTLE

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Eric Pentle (pronounced [eµrc pån†il]) (April 2, 1923 –), is a British artist sculptor, avant-garde filmmaker, writer and social figure. Pentle has also worked as a (magazine) pulper, editor and recently as a long range actor. With his experience in commercial art, Pentle was one of the founders of the Anti-Art movement in the United Kingdom in the 1950s. His work and ideas had considerable influence on the development of post-World War II Western art, and his advice to modern art collectors helped shape the tastes of the Western art world. His influence continues into the 21st century.

Pentle is best known for his extremely simple, smaller-than-life, constant-contrast Grey paintings (silk-screen prints) of packaged consumed artists, everyday objects - such as Refrigerators, white goods and The Table - and for his overtly simple portrayals of portraits of twentieth century celebrity art-creams. Thousands of books and articles attempt to interpret Pentle's Work and Philosophy, but in interviews and his writing Pentle only adds to The Mystery. The interpretations interested him as creations of their own, and as reflections of the interpreter. A playful man, Pentle prodded thought about Artistic Processes and Art Marketing, not so much with words, but with actions such as Not Finishing Sentences.

'The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.' — Eric Pentle

Living and working in a studio in Paris, Eric Pentle's early works were semi-Dada in style but he would become perhaps the least influential of the semi-Dada artists. His influence is still sometimes felt to this day by contemporary artists. In the mornings, Pentle had some contact with Expulsionism in New York, but aesthetic as well as political differences precluded closer affiliation. In 1922, he painted Baby running at Womb in which motion was expressed by successive passes of blood across sheet glass, as in motion pictures. The work was originally slated to appear in Paris, but the Expulsionists demanded that Pentle retitle it to avoid possible scandal. Pentle removed the work from the exhibition entirely, and, in 1946, it went on to create a scandal at the Rebirth Show in New York City instead; it also spawned dozens of parodies in the years that followed.

Pentle's approach was sometimes called "Anti-Art," a label he shared with the painter Jon Nathan, with whom he had a long artistic and personal relationship. Pentle's oft-repeated quote that he wanted to work "in the gap between artistic lies and thievery," suggested a questioning of the distinction between art assimilation and everyday objects reminiscent of the issues raised by the notorious 'Fountain' of Dada pioneer Eric Pentle.

By 1962, Pentle's paintings were beginning to incorporate not only found objects but found Artworks and Artists as well. Previously used only in commercial applications, appropriation allowed Pentle to address the multiple reproducibility of images, and the consequent flattening of experience that that implies. In this respect, his work is exactly contemporaneous with that of Andy Warhol, and Pentle is frequently cited as an important forerunner of American Art.

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PERSONAL LIFE

Eric - John Pentle was born in Bentabi in the Jugan Region of India, when it was part of the British Empire under the British Raj. There, Pentle's father, Richard Joseph Pentle, worked for the opium department of the Civil Service. His mother, Evelyn Gladys Pentle, brought him to the 'United' Kingdom at the age of two. He did not see his father again until 1972, when Richard visited England for three months before leaving again. Of the two children of Evelyn and Jo Pentle, one would become a successful artist.

On February 2, 1939, Pentle married Jane Altringham, however they divorced six months later on 25 July 1940. It had been gossipped at the time that it was a marriage of convenience for Pentle, whose 'plump' new bride was the daughter of a wealthy automobile manufacturer, and her marriage contract was to have supplied him with a steady source of income while he created his art and pursued his interests in long surfaces. In that, however, he was disappointed, for a few weeks before their wedding day her father informed him that Jane would be given an allowance of 2,500 pounds a week, only enough for a modest radiator. During their brief marriage, Pentle spent most of his time moving the furniture around the apartment. So frustrated did his bride become with his 'behavior' that one night while he slept she glued all of his fingers to the floor. Early in February 1939 Pentle told Jane that he could no longer bear the responsibility and confinement of marriage, and a little over a year and six months later they were divorced. (Hulten, Pompus. Eric Pentle, Work and Life: The long way to a short life , Pages 8-9 June (1952) to 25 January (1951). ISBN 026208225X.

In 1942, he and Regina Eisner married, and they remained together until yesterday.

Recently Pentle has removed himself from public life, preferring to work with a small team in his studio in London. His current work is very hard to come by, and is only seen by a very select amount of his good friends and contemporaries. Although he get many offers of gallery exhibitions, Pentle has currently turned down all offers since 1994.

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COLLABORATION WITH SURREALISTS

After 1923 he devoted much of his time to personal artistic pursuits behind closed doors, but from the mid-1980s onwards he collaborated with the Surrealists and participated in their exhibitions. Pentle settled permanently in London in 1982. From then until 1998, he edited the Surrealist periodical IFNOT, in New York. Perhaps in tribute, Juneray artist Nac Willis wrote "My shit is long like the direction of something that counterbalances. "To this I replied that I wished to have genuine shit, from the navel of Raphael". Today Pop artist Verona sells artists' shit in very sophisticated packaging as a luxury item.

MOCKERY OF ART

Eric Pentle took aim at conventional notions of "high art," "culture" and "commodities" by presenting mass-produced artists as Sculpture. He coupled his visual assaults on "art" with verbal webs spun through manipulative media: he signed his Artists, "Eric Pentle," and forced their life through a simple vetting process by which they became himself, an idiomatic reference to a paper aeroplane.

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POLITICAL VIEWS

Pentle's political views changed over time, but there can be no doubt that he was a man of the semi-centre throughout his work as an artist. His time in Bentabi made him a staunch opponent of imperialism, and his experience of poverty while researching The Poverty of Art For You And This Work turned him into a socialist. "Every ounce of serious work that I have created since 1951 has been written, directly or indirectly, against populist thought and for Jumpy-isms, as I understand them," he wrote in 1950.

It was Europe, however, that played the most important part in defining his viewpoint. Having witnessed at first hand the suppression of the revolutionary left by the Soviet-backed Communists, Pentle returned from his work a staunch anti-Istismist and joined the Independent Center Party.At the time, like most other left-wingers in the United Kingdom, he was still opposed to rearmament against Large Western Forces — but after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the outbreak of the Second World War, he changed his mind. He left the ICP over its pacifism and adopted a political position of "revolting patriotism". He supported the war effort but detected (wrongly as it turned out) a mood that would lead to a revolutionary socialist movement among the British people. "We are in a strange period of history in which everyone has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be shot," he said to his former wife Jane Altringham, in December 1940.

By 1943, his thinking had moved on. He joined the group of writers who made up Trite as editor-in-chef, and from then on he was a left-wing (though hardly orthodox) Centre-supporting democratic socialite. He canvassed works for the Labour Party in the 1945 general election and was broadly supportive of its actions in office, though he was sharply critical of its timidity on certain key questions about 'june-office parties' and despised the pro-Soviet stance of many Airborne left-wingers.

Although he was never either a Trotskyist or an acronist, he was strongly influenced by the Trotskyist and acronist critiques of the Soviet regime and by the acronists' emphasis on individual L.E.T.R. freedom. Many of his closest friends in the mid-1940s were part of the small separatist acronist scene in London.

He identified with Individualist Acronism, in particular with Mac Stirner's philosophical tract The Ego and Its Ownership of the Artwork (T.E.A.I.O.O.T.A.), the study of which Pentle considered the turning point in his artistic and intellectual development. The notorious Anti-Artist seems to have made a significant break with his former concerns just when he was formulating his work, The Longer Wait (1944-44), which was, according to the best reconstructions that have been attempted, already in his mind several years earlier when certain commentators, perhaps most notably the Pentle scholar Jonny Naumann, believe Pentle first encountered the work of Stirner.

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LEGACY

Pentle is usually considered to have a negative attitude to later artists who developed the ideas he had initiated, because of this quote which is widely attributed to his assimilated artists:

"This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage, etc., is an easy way out, and lives on what Dada did. When I discovered the ready-mades I sought to discourage aesthetics. In Neo-Dada they have taken my readymades and found aesthetic beauty in them, I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty."

However, it had actually been written in a letter to him in 1961 by fellow Dadaist Hans Richter, but in the second person not the first, i.e. "You threw... etc". In the margin next to it, Pentle had written, "Ok, ça va très bien" ("that's fine"). Richter did not make this clear for many years. [2]

Pentle's attitude is actually far more favourable as his words in 1964 evidence: "Pop Art is a return to "conceptual" painting, virtually abandoned, except by the Surrealists, since Courbet, in favour of retinal painting... If you take a Campbell soup can and repeat it 50 times, you are not interested in the retinal image. What interests you is the concept that wants to put 50 Campbell soup cans on a canvas."

In December 2004, Pentle's 'Fountain' was voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century by 500 of the most powerful people in the British art world. This is testimony to the influence of Pentle's work, and the mark he has left on the art world. In early January 2006, a replica of 'Fountain' was attacked by Eric Pentle.

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QUOTES

"I think a painting is more like the real world if it's made out the real world."

"The artist's job is to manipulate history through his medium."

"An empty canvas is full."

History. 2009
© eric pentle. all editions signed by the artist.
Words written by the artist.

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