This reinstallation of the Palermo galleries centers on Times of the Day I–VI (1974–76), a six-part series comprising 24 individual paintings, which the artist began two years after relocating to New York City and taking up painting on aluminum panels. The paintings were executed on square panels divided into three horizontal bands painted with vibrant and saturated colors. The chromatic juxtapositions, organized in a sequence ranging from bright to opaque hues, allude to the shift of light as the day progresses from sunrise to noon and from sunset to dusk. The fore gallery leading into Times of the Day I–VI features Untitled (Totem) (1964–67) and Winkel rot-Weiß (Angle Red-White) (1965), two works from Dia's collection on view for the first time at Dia:Beacon.
Aptly sited in the naturally lit galleries of Dia:Beacon, Times of the Day I–VI
(1974–76) is a seminal series in the oeuvre of artist Blinky Palermo, yet one
that is rarely seen in its entirety. Conceived by the artist after his relocation
to New York City from Düsseldorf in December 1973, Times of the Day
comprises six four-part works, and originates Palermo’s serialized, multi-part
Metallbilder, or Metal Paintings, markedly the last body of work in his short,
yet pronounced career.
The Metallbilder, which also includes Palermo’s Coney Island I and II (1975) and the renowned series To the People of New York City (1976) among other works, were a departure for Palermo from the site-specific wall pieces and paintings, as well as his earlier Objects and Stoffbilder, or Cloth Paintings, that had comprised his practice from 1964 to 1973. Featured in the fore gallery leading into Times of the Day, Untitled (Totem, 1964–67) and Winkel Rot-Weiß (Angle Red-White, 1965) are two Objects significant to Palermo’s early practice of experimenting with spatial relationships of form and color. In Untitled (Totem) and Winkel Rot-Weiß (Angle Red-White), Palermo uses wood battens as a sculptural vehicle for creating dynamic painted surfaces that resist the shape of conventional canvas.
For Times of the Day, Palermo first composed and sketched the six sequences on paper and then executed the contrasting pair of horizontal bands with acrylic and alkyd paint. This specific application continued his intense inquiry into the display of color on alternative surfaces, set forth in this series by painting on thin aluminum panels. On each panel, Palermo layered several coats of different colors on top of one another to create dense surfaces of varying hues. By then grouping this multiplicity of vibrant and saturated hues, the artist set forth a palette that directed the shift from bright to opaque. Each work is conceived much like a sentence, read from left to right across the wall, in which the guided polarity from light to dark panels alludes to a day’s progression from sunrise to noon and from sunset to dusk. Speaking on Metallbilder, Palermo shared: “The finished work usually consists of a sequence of colors or tones which I was unable to invent or envisage when I started it.” Intrinsically, the layered depth illuminated in the 24 individual panels embodies a chromatic horizon. The sense of succession is articulated in the space between each panel, thus generating resting spaces for the eye that repeat throughout the room. Each panel is also minimally projected from the wall by hidden fasteners, lifting the color off the wall and suspending it in space.
With the Metallbilder, Palermo decisively turned his focus away from the production of singular works that had occupied him in the preceding years. As evidenced in Times of the Day, this later work began, instead, to compose serial processes of painted metal panels that use color and ordered form to frame a central field of perception. On one hand, Times of the Day’s clean, demarcated bands of color read as striking, didactic signs. Yet, unlike the porosity of canvas, the smooth metal plates provide a flat surface that allows the brush to reveal slight striations and irregularities. This slightest facture serves to attest to the manual activity of painting and lends the work a warmth and personal affect. What is significant is that the Metallbilder succeeded in broadening the parameters of painting, even while remaining unconditionally rectangular. In retrospect, the wit of this work is prodigious, for as Palermo once suggested: “If I were to work with canvas and stretcher, the whole image of the pictures would be a completely different one.”