Blinky Palermo

26 August - 21 October 2000


In a short creative period of around 15 years, the artist Palermo (1943 – 1977) left behind a body of works that has remained current to this day in its presence and intensity. (Born as Peter Heisterkamp in Leipzig, he adopted the pseudonym in 1964 upon joining the Beuys class at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie.) As a pupil of Beuys, he became friends with Imi Knoebel, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke – artists with whom he is often linked, and who were a source of stimulation for one another in their work. It would be inappropriate, however, to assign Palermo to a certain artistic current. Rather, it is precisely upon comparative examination that the distinctions become evident. The exhibition concentrates on the metal paintings from the Seventies. During this period, Palermo pursued a concentration of his painting by reducing and minimalizing the means of expression to the element of color. Despite their geometric severity, the metal paintings – panels covered with monochrome color – possess something very transparent and immaterial. The color is imbued with such an immanence, as if it could break through the boundaries imposed by its form. At first impression, the surface seems compact and neutral. But one is always aware of the sensitively revealed linear and painterly structures. Although the artist tries to reduce the emotional gesture of the stroke to a minimum, he demonstratively rejects the anonymous perfection of traceless work. This becomes even more evident in the works he created during his time in America. These are variations of the primary colors red, yellow and blue with incorporation of black and white. The multi-part work “4 White Forms” created in 1975 consists of a series of four panels measuring 26.6 x 21 cm. The center of each board forms a white square of 21 x 21 cm, bounded by two horizontal bars above and below. The distance from one panel to the next was set by the artist at exactly 21 cm. The strict delineations lead to a restrained rhythm. Yet instead of becoming rigidly fixed to a kind of formalism, the surfaces are opened up. By exactly defining the dimensions for the hanging, the painter incorporates the wall in the work. The painted surface thus enters into a dialogue with the spatial surface of the wall. In seeking to break down the boundaries of the format and overcome the notion of painting as merely a carrier of an image, Palermo succeeded in integrating and illustrating formal demands and subjective perception in a complex aesthetic process. “... if I look at an expanse of water, of course I have other feelings than when I look at an expanse of blue color. When I have achieved these possibilities in a painting, I consider it completed.” (Palermo 1973)

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