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Alison Van Pelt (born September 16, 1963, Los Angeles) is an American painter. Trained in Los Angeles and Florence, Van Pelt is established as a contemporary artist whose work is informed by expressionism, minimalism and pop art.

Alison Van Pelt
Portrait of Chuck Close. Image reveals painstaking details that are then just as painstakingly blurred in finished portrait below.
BornSeptember 16, 1963
Known forcontemporary artist


Van Pelt was born and raised in California and grew up in Los Angeles, where she attended the University of California at Los Angeles.[1] She came of age in the 1970s and her distinctive photorealist painting style is evocative of that era, when photography was assimilated into the art world. Painters—Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack and Chuck Close among them—would create paintings that appeared to be photographs.[2] Van Pelt begins by referencing a photograph or other existing image from which she draws and paints a realistic portrait entirely by hand. Next comes the work of obscuring the carefully rendered image. From a distance the image appears soft, as though photographed through a mist. But as the viewer approaches the work, vertical lines can be seen, and on closer inspection a sort of horizontal weave emerges. One writer described the effect this creates on Van Pelt’s The Expulsion of Adam and Eve as, "so thick with paint and lines that it actually appears to have been applied to wood, not canvas.[3]

In response to the observation that her work is abstract, Van Pelt has said, "It’s my way of merging the tradition of portraiture with contemporary abstraction. I’m interested in ambiguity." A sublime tension is created in the contradiction between the crisp photorealism with which she first delineates her subject and the purposeful act of obscuring this subject, which ensues.[4] Viewed up close, a grid of ambiguous color meets the eye, but with distance the viewer gains the necessary objectivity to discern the subject. However, even with this revelation, a question remains as one writer so aptly noted: "Are the figures stepping forth into the tangible world or are they receding into the depths of the canvas?" [1]

The impetus for this creative tension has its origins in a visit to Paris in 1988. At the Beaubourg at Centre Georges Pompidou, Van Pelt was captivated by the way Francis Bacon had smeared the paint on the face of one of his subjects, and that same evening found a postcard in which the nighttime streetlights appeared as blurry lines. After she returned home to California, the memory of these two images led Van Pelt to experiment with blurring the paint on a portrait of a woman’s face. Her style had coalesced. Her technique caught the attention of Los Angeles dealer Robert Berman, whose gallery exhibited several solo shows of Van Pelt’s work.[1][4]

In 1992, Van Pelt traveled to Florence, Italy to study painting at the Florence Academy of Art, where the ethereal style of her work prompted comparisons to the Shroud of Turin.[5] During the two years she spent studying abroad, she showed her work in solo exhibitions overseas: the show New Work appeared at Galerie Paul Sties in Krönberg, Germany, New Paintings at Galerie Lauter in Mannheim, Germany, and Les Animaux Nouveaux at Galerie Vedovi in Brussels.[4]

Van Pelt’s portrait of William S. Burroughs welcomed visitors to Ports of Entry, an exhibit of Burroughs’ work held at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1996. The Beat Generation hero’s portrait, which appears on the cover for his book, has been described as a ghost-like image.[6] One journalist described Van Pelt’s portrait of Burroughs as "peering out at us with his trademark craggy deadpan, looking characteristically haunted." [4] A Parisian art collector, who also videotapes séances claimed that her paintings looked exactly like the ghosts he records.[3]


Despite the interest that the visceral nature of Bacon’s paintings initially sparked, in comparison, Van Pelt’s work evokes a more languid approach to her subjects… Gerhard Richter and Mark Rothko are among the artists who have exercised considerable influence on Van Pelt’s technique. More than one reviewer has noted that her portraits recall Richter’s blurred portraits of the infamous RAF members embroiled in the Baader-Meinhof scandal in the 1970s, but without the dark political associations.[4][7] Nancy Burson’s composite portraits also come to mind.[8] The line and grid work of Agnes Martin sparked Van Pelt’s meticulous attention to detail in which Van Pelt places as much focus on each brush stroke as she does on a piece of work in its entirety.[1] Van Pelt has said that Plato’s universal flow resonates for her.[3]

Published workEdit

Paul Ruscha’s FULL MOON, Steidl Publishers, Göttingen, 2006
The Eclectic Eye; Selections from the Frederick R Weisman Art Foundation, Published by the Frederick R. Weisman Philanthropic Foundation, Los Angeles, CA, copyright 2004. Full page, four color reproduction, page 177, with text page 176. 2005
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 26th Annual Benefit Art Auction 2005, full color illustration page 12. 2005
Komanecky, Michael & Van Pelt, Alison. Alison Van Pelt The Women The DaytonArt Institute, Dayton, Ohio 2004
Yalkut, Jud. A Tribute to Some of the Greatest Female Artists of the 20th Century, A & C Visuals Dayton City Paper Weekly News & Culture, April 1 6, 2004, pg. 13.2004
Rollins, Ron. About Face, Arts and Entertainment, Dayton Daily News, March 14, 2004
Appel, Brian. Fall Contemporary Art Sales in New York, Art, December, 2004, David Cohen, editor. 2004
Lassell, Michael. Sand Box, Metropolitan Home, March/April 2003
Reginato, James. W at Home House of Brad, W, October 2001
Sobieszek, Robert, A. Fight. Rusconi Publishing, Los Angeles, California 2000
Stunning Painting, Art Scene, January 2000
Paintings, Arts and Entertainment, January 2000
Ochi Exhibition, Wood River Journal, January 2000
The Universal Language, dART INTERNATIONAL, Winter 1999
Artist Profile, Cosmopolitan, August 1999
Wiener, Nicole. The Gadget Versus the Soul, Exhibition of the Human Form, FORM, June 1999
Collins, Linda. Whats On, The Argonaut, May 1999
Flight and the Figure: the Paintings of Alison Van Pelt, Rusconi Publishing, Los Angeles, 1999
Scheer, Robert. Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1998
Scheer, Robert. Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1998
Campbell, Clayton. Alison Van Pelt, Ouverture, July 1998
Neusch, Walter. Geheimnisvoll, ArtHaus, June 1998
Star Artist, Los Angeles Magazine, May 1998
Art Auction, Catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles 1998
Condo, Anna and Jerryl Oristaglio. Ah Allen, A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg, Grenfell Press, New York 1998
Blue Paintings, ArtCONNOISSEUR, Volume 1, Number 1 1998
Plattner, Anuschka. Ausstellung, Deutsche Word, February 1998
Man Ray in Hollywood, dART INTERNATIONAL, January 1998
Melrod, George. Femme Noir, World Art, No. 12 1997
Zappa, Moon. Earth to Moon, RAYGUN, November 1997
Ports of Entry, Exhibition Catalogue Cover, Los Angeles County Museum of Los Angeles County Museum of Art reproduction and text, pp. 154–158. 1996
Joselit, David. Burroughs Virology, Art in America, November. 1996
Garnier, Philippe. Burroughs, La Liberation, August 26, 1996
Art Auction, Catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. 1996
Scheer, Robert. Los Angeles Times, January 10. 1996.
Melrod, George. Openings, Art & Antiques, September 14, 1995.
Finch, Liz. Whats on Art, The Argonaut, September 14, 1995
Marx, Heike. Das Blaue, Stop, July 1995
Madigan, Nick. Illusion or Reality? Santa Monica Outlook, August 19, 1994.
Reviews, ArtScene, October 1992
Carlson, Lance. Open House, Artweek, October 8, 1992
The Book/Los Angeles, Kahn & Partners, Los Angeles, 1989

Solo exhibitionsEdit

If I Were Ed Ruscha..., Ventura College, Ventura, CA, January 2011 February 2011
All American, Ochi Gallery, Ketchum, ID, December 2010 January 2011
Alison Van Pelt, The Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA, June 2006 August 2006
The Women, The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH, January 2004 June 2004
America: The News, Chac Mool Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2004
Paintings on Paper, Chac Mool Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2002
Fight, Ochi, Los Angeles, CA 2000
Flight and the Figure, Ochi, Ketchum, ID 1999
Figures, Gallery 813, Los Angeles, CA 1999
Blue, Gallerie Lauter, Manheim, Germany 1998
Eros, Robert Berman Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA 1998
Motion, Robert Berman Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA 1997
Les Animaux Nouveaux, Gallerie Vedovi, Brussels, Belgium 1997
Blue, Robert Berman Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA 1995
New Paintings, Gallerie Lauter, Manheim, Germany 1995
New Works, Aschenbach Galerie, Amsterdam, Netherlands 1994
Recent Works, Robert Berman Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA
New Paintings, Roger Smith Gallery, New York, NY 1994
New Work, Gallerie Paul Sties, Kronberg, Germany 1993
New Paintings, Robert Berman Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA 1992
Nouvelles Oeuvres, Ulla Lutz Studio, Basel, Switzerland 1992
La French Collection, Les Andelys, France 1992
Tableaux Nouveaux, Ader Tajan, Paris, France 1992
New Works, B-1 Gallery, Santa Monica, CA 1991

Group exhibitionsEdit

Elements of Nature: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans - 2010
Under the Influence of Fashion and Finance, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA - 2010
Sears-Peyton Gallery, New York, NY - 2010
Homage to the Artists, Ochi Gallery, Ketchum, ID - 2009
Incognito, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA - 2008
California Art, Platt/Borstein Galleries at American Jewish University, Bel Air, CA
LA Art House, Beverly Hills, CA- 2009
Beverly Hills Municipal Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA - 2006
Small Wonders II, Pharmaka Gallery, Los Angeles, CA - 2006
Portraits, curated by Shane Guffogg, Pharmaka Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA - 2005
The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH - 2005
Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA - 2004
New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA - 2004
Spike Gallery, New York, NY - 2004
California State University at Bakersfield, Bakersfield, CA - 2003
Spike Gallery, New York, NY - 2003
Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, NV - 2002
Ah Allen, New York, NY - 1998
Track 16, Santa Monica, CA - 1996
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA - 1996
Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica, CA - 1994
Ader Tajan, Paris, France - May 1992
Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica, CA - 1992

Public and Corporate CollectionsEdit

Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Bank of America, San Francisco, CA
Castilla Foundation, Madrid, Spain
Chevron Corporation Chevron Environmental Management Company, San Ramon, CA
Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH
Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA
Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
Frederick R. Weisman Museum, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
Jumex Foundation, Mexico City, Mexico
Kayne Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
NASA, Washington, D.C.
The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC
NBC Studios, New York, NY
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, NY
Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
Van Pelt Dietrich Library, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Private collections[4]Edit

Lance Armstrong, Los Angeles, CA
Michael Bay, Los Angeles, CA
Arthur Beale, Boston, MA
Robert Berman, Los Angeles, CA
Jeffery Best, Los Angeles, CA
Riccardo Boatto, Venice, Italy
Andre Boissier, New York, NY
Blake Byrne, Los Angeles, CA
Ted Chervin, Los Angeles, CA
Pippa Cohen, Los Angeles, CA
Sean Combs, New York, NY
George Condo, New York, NY
Dane Cook, Los Angeles, CA
Fiona Corsini, Venice, Italy
Sheryl Crow, Los Angeles, CA
Ron Davis, Los Angeles, CA
Donald DeLine, Los Angeles, CA
Estate of Diana, Princess of Wales, Althorp, England
Jim Dicke II, Dayton, OH
Sante D’Orazio, New York, NY
Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Cristoph Graf Douglas, Frankfurt, Germany
Steve Estridge, Chicago, IL
Peter Farrelley, Los Angeles, CA
Katie Ford, New York, NY
Jaime Frankfurt, Los Angeles, CA
Jimmy Goldstein, Los Angeles, CA
Steve Golin, Los Angeles, CA
Shane Guffogg, Los Angeles, CA
Alex Haaf, Frankfurt, Germany
Mariel Hemingway, New York, NY
Mark and Skye Hoppus, Los Angeles, CA
Susanna Hyatt, San Francisco, CA
Audrey Irmas, Los Angeles, CA
Philip Isles, New York, NY
Mitch Kupchek, Los Angeles, CA
Jeanette Longoria, Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Rolf Lauter, Frankfurt, Germany
Eugenio Lopez, Los Angeles, CA
Eugenio and Isabella Lopez, Mexico City, Mexico
Bryan Lourd, Los Angeles, CA
Caryn Mandabach, Los Angeles, CA
Agnes Martin, Taos, NM
Brad and Annie Mason, Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Billie Milam, Los Angeles, CA
Robert Morton, Los Angeles, CA
Jerry Moss, Los Angeles, CA
Fred Nicholas, Los Angeles, CA
Mme. Odermatt, Paris, France
Richard O’Hare, Chicago, IL
Richard Plepler, New York, CA
President Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, New York, NY
Pat Poncy, Los Angeles, CA
Ed Ruscha, Los Angeles, CA
Paul Ruscha, Los Angeles, CA
Ronnie and Vidal Sassoon, Los Angeles, CA
Marc Selwyn, Los Angeles, CA
Peter Sennilson, London, England
Bob Shaye, New York, NY
Doug Simon, Pasadena, CA
Robert Sobieszek, Los Angeles, CA
Cheryl Tiegs, Los Angeles, CA
Sting and Trudie Styler, New York, NY
Paolo Vedovi, Brussels, Belgium
Hans Rothenberg Von Waldenvogel, Berlin, Germany
Chris Watts, Los Angeles, CA
Thomas Weisel, San Francisco, CA
Irwin Winkler, Los Angeles, CA
Estate of Frank Zappa, Los Angeles, CA


  1. ^ a b c d Flight and the Figure: The Paintings of Alison Van Pelt, Rusconi Publishing, Los Angeles, 1999
  2. ^ Thompson, Graham: American Culture in the 1980s (Twentieth Century American Culture) Edinburgh University Press, 2007
  3. ^ a b c Art International, Winter 1999, "The Universal Language" by Jeremy Rosenberg
  4. ^ a b c d e f World Art, No. 12, 1997, "Femme Noir" by George Melrod
  5. ^ Chatter Magazine, September 1994 by Tracy Mallozzi
  6. ^ La Liberation, Aug. 26, 1996, Burroughs by Philippe Garnier
  7. ^ Art & Antiques, Sept. 14, 1995, Openings by George Melrod
  8. ^ ArtScene, Vol. 12 No. 2, October 1992, Reviews

External linksEdit