Encouraged by Joseph Beuys, his teacher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, in 1964 Peter Heisterkamp adopted the pseudonym Blinky Palermo after the American boxing promoter-cum-mafioso, and henceforth started a short-yet-pronounced artistic career. Working within and against the tradition of painting, Palermo methodically pushed the limits of the medium by devising distinct bodies of works. Begun in 1964, his “objects” consisted of summarily painted canvases wrapped around sculptural stretchers, that at times he arranged in diptychs. Winkel Rot-Weiß (Angle Red-White, 1965) is exemplary of this body of works. In the late 1960s Palermo made a number of fabric paintings, in which he maintained the traditional rectangular format of the stretcher, but released his authority over facture and color and used commercially available pieces of already-tinted cloth instead. In 1968 he executed his first wall paintings, which evolved from permutations of pencil-drawn lines within a grid, to monochrome surfaces mapping the architecture that hosted them.
Palermo established a studio in New York in 1973 after visiting the city with Gerhard Richter in 1970. In this new setting Palermo’s artistic practice shifted to metal paintings, serial multi-paneled works on aluminum coated with polychrome layers of acrylic paint. Palermo carefully orchestrated their configuration in space, so that colors and shapes respond to each other with uniquely spontaneous openness.
In 1987 Dia inaugurated its exhibition space in Chelsea with a major show of Palermo’s final work, To the People of New York City (1977) alongside works by Joseph Beuys and Imi Knoebel. In 2010–11 Dia presented Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964–1977 at Dia:Beacon, which was the first retrospective of Palermo’s work in the United States.
Blinky Palermo was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1943. He died in the Maldives in 1977.
Blinky Palermo: To the People of New York City
An in-depth examination of German painter Blinky Palermo's most significant cycle of paintings, dedicated "to the people of nyc."