John Perreault

John Perreault was an American conceptual and performance artist and art critic who occasionally delved into poetry, although art was his primary interest. He was born John Lucas Perreault on the 26th August 1937 in the Manhattan district of New York City but raised by his French-Canadian parents at several New Jersey locations including Belmar where his father was in the catering business.  While at high school John helped out with the family ice cream business.  He was showing early promise as both a writer and an artist but he was almost thirty years old before he became well known in the world of literature and art. As a young man he briefly flirted with the...

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John Perreault Bio

John Perreault was an American conceptual and performance artist and art critic who occasionally delved into poetry, although art was his primary interest.

He was born John Lucas Perreault on the 26th August 1937 in the Manhattan district of New York City but raised by his French-Canadian parents at several New Jersey locations including Belmar where his father was in the catering business.  While at high school John helped out with the family ice cream business.  He was showing early promise as both a writer and an artist but he was almost thirty years old before he became well known in the world of literature and art.

As a young man he briefly flirted with the idea of teaching, being a student for a short time at New Jersey’s Montclair State Teachers College.  In later life he went back to teaching and held positions at a number of schools and colleges.  At first though he  ignored this mode of employment and he enrolled on a poetry workshop being held at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.  His writing abilities soon came to the attention of the poet John Ashbery who recommended him to a publication called Art News.  This led to an appointment to the magazine’s staff as an art critic, in 1966, and later he moved on to a similar position with The Village Voice.

It was also in 1966 that Perreault had his first collection of poetry published under the title Camouflage.  This was followed by two other books:  Luck in 1969 and Harry in 1974.  He rose to the position of Chief Art Critic with the Village Voice and he made it his priority to champion non-mainstream artistic and literary work whenever he could.  He gave particular encouragement to feminists such as Judy Chicago and did his utmost to promote gay-themed art and photorealism.  He was very interested in Minimalism and avant garde artists.  He moved on again in 1975 to become senior art critic for The Soho Weekly News and remained there for seven years.  Other positions came his way, such as being the curator of various arts and crafts galleries and museums.  Two examples were the Staten Island Newhouse Centre for Contemporary Art between 1985-89 and the American Craft Museum where he was in post from 1990-93.

Perhaps it was the fact that he was openly homosexual that he found it so easy to promote the work of women where others might give it less attention.  He described artists such as Sylvia Sleigh and Sharon Wybrandt as daring, challenging and sometimes tongue-in-cheek but noted, in his widely read articles, that he saw nothing wrong with a woman demonstrating an inflated ego, just as a male writer or artist would.  “And why shouldn’t they?” was his simple statement.

Although clearly a talented and popular writer Perreault also enjoyed to paint and was exhibiting his own work in Greenwich Village from the mid-1960s onwards.  He also got into performance arts and poetry recitals and, on one occasion, he stood up and recited a long poem called Hunger as part of a poetry project.  This took place at St. Mark’s Church-in-the Bowery and he enhanced the reading with a backdrop of constantly changing, thought-provoking colour images that were projected onto a screen behind him.

As mentioned above, he was openly gay and, in 2008, he married his long-term male partner as soon as same-sex marriage had been declared legal.  Jeff Weinstein had followed a similar path, working on the same arts publications at various times, although they actually met while Perreault was teaching at the University of California in San Diego.

John Perreault died on the 6th September 2015 at the age of 78.  He had recently had gastrointestinal surgery and suffered complications from which he never recovered.