Robert Petrick has been creating both abstract art and lettering graphic design for over 40 years. His work is dynamic, and always moving, containing great energy and emotion.
In his 2012 show at the 307 Gallery in Chelsea, “ construction, destruction, ego,” Petrick will be exhibiting several series of his abstract paintings and some of his lettering works.
Petrick says of his painting, “I have long been obsessed with nature. It’s inhabitants and how it works. I feel a close relationship to nature. Much of my work is influenced by natural logic, form and design. As a mature artist I expanded my direction by first addressing the abstraction of form and then non-objective abstraction.”
In this current work, Petrick is inspired by the simplicity surrounding him. Light filtering through venetian blinds and “how it breaks up a space” influenced his 30 small paintings of geometrical stripes, one of the show’s series.
Robert Petrick grew up near the Delaware River in Palmyra, New Jersey, the third of four children in a working class family. He exhibited artistic talent at a young age, and was awarded a scholarship to the Tyler School of Art. He also studied commercial art at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts).
From the late 1970s he lived among countercultural artists in the South Street area of Philadelphia, teaching graphic lettering at the Philadelphia College of Art, taking drawing classes and painting.
His love of rock and roll led him to design album covers, including one for Angel, a glam rock band signed with Casablanca Records, who used his logo on their 1976 album cover. He also designed a logo for WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania’s alternative radio station.
Petrick left Philadelphia from 1980 to 1983 to design lettering projects for Art Hotel in Los Angeles, but the East Coast drew him back.
He landed in NYC’s artistically exploding East Village in the mid – 80s. His abstract expressionist art found a home in the explosion of storefront galleries in Alphabet City. Group shows were everywhere spilling out into the streets, and his paintings were shown at Nolo Contendere, the Emerging Collector, the One Stop Gallery, the Nico Smith Gallery and with the artist collective Colab’s themed shows.
In 1984 he had a solo exhibit of colorful, dreamlike characters drawn on huge, unframed canvasses at the Red Bar. Shows at other night spots followed, including the Pyramid Club and Danceteria. He also participated in the annual Tompkins Square Art Around the Park exhibit most years.
Over the years his color palette has become darker and lighter, more and less figurative, but it is always organic, changing and evolving.
Petrick’s shows in the 21st century include the 2006 DUMBO Annual Exhibit in Brooklyn, “Eye Tricks,” an exhibit of optical illusions at the Walsh Gallery at Seton Hall University in 2007, in New Jersey, and the 307 Gallery Group Show in Philadelphia in 2011. He also had a one-man show of his lettering designs in the Tompkins Square Park Library, including a life-sized sculptural mirror piece, “SPACE.”
Other accomplishments include teaching lettering graphic design at Parsons School of Design, a division of the New School. He produced cover art for two of poet Thaddeus Rutkowski’s chapbooks, “Journey to the Center of My Id,” and “White and Wong.”
Parallel to his painting career, Petrick has a significant portfolio of lettering design, incorporating both commercial graphic design, word sculptures and letterform paintings. He has created entire alphabets of typefaces. His lettering design has appeared on a 1984 cover of Art Direction Magazine and in the 1980 issue of Omni Magazine.
In 1984 his letterform design “EXIST,” fading into “EXIT” and “NOWHERE” transforming into “NOW HERE,” were published by Petrick while working at Photolettering. He spray painted EXIST/EXIT on the sidewalk of Avenue B and 11th Street, where it was photographed and featured in Vogue as graffiti art.
Petrick has drawn and perfected four original typefaces, Blowfish, Africana, Pepino, Mirror, and Boink
Petrick is listed on Wikipedia under Ambigrams, which are described as, “an art form that may be read as one or more words not only in its form as presented, but also from another viewpoint, direction or orientation.” In other words, the letters either read the same forward and backward, or form another word when read backwards. Petrick is listed as being an “early influencer of ambigrams in the 1970s, along with his good friend and ambigram inventor John Langdon.
Petrick is indefatigable, always either painting abstract art or lettering design. He lives in New York City with the artist Loredana Rizzardi.
---By Randi Hoffman