Blinky Palermo


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German artist. Born in Leipzig as Peter Schwarze, he was adopted and called Peter Heisterkamp. He took the name Blinky Palermo from an American boxing promoter and mafioso (once described as ‘one of boxing's certifiable bad guys’), whom he physically resembled. He was a student of Joseph Beuys at the Düsseldorf Academy and became closely associated with Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and Imi Knoebel. All these artists were involved with exploring the physical processes of painting and representation. Jan Verwoert has argued that his art represents a kind of transition between the Romantic concept of art maintained by Beuys and the materialist concept of art as a response to the mundane adopted by his fellow students. Indeed his work has been identified both with a German Romantic tradition and with a Pop sensibility. He made use of simple forms and materials like sticks and T squares. Reductivist geometric abstractions were made from sown-together lengths of ready-made fabric. Works were sometimes designed for a particular space and so could never be repeated. The distinctive quality of his art is in the way that these apparently inconsequential structures seem to represent a meeting point of so many strands of modern art, from the geometry of Malevich to the socially aware sense of the poetry of materials of Beuys. Palermo died suddenly on holiday in the Maldives after some years of alcohol and substance abuse. As with so many artists who died young, a romantic myth has grown up around him. In 1981 Julian Schnabel made a painting entitled The Unexpected Death of Blinky Palermo in the Tropics.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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