Opening on April 5, 2007, Zwirner & Wirth will present the only existing complete set of prints and multiples by German artist Blinky Palermo.
Blinky Palermo (1943-1977) has left behind a uniquely influential legacy as an artist, despite the tragically short span of his career. Though it has been linked with distinct 20th Century art practices–which include abstraction, minimalism, and conceptual art, Palermo's diverse body of work defies easy categorization.
Palermo created a total of 31 print editions and 6 multiples between 1966 and 1975. These form a closed group of work in their own rite, paralleling the other distinct artistic categories that the artist developed over the course of his career, which include "objects," (sculptural forms and paintings), "wall-drawings" (works that were drawn and painted directly onto the architecture of the museum or gallery), "Stoffbilder" ("paintings" made out of monochromatic planes of industrially-produced fabric sewn together in panels), and drawings. However, the prints and multiples figure as an important overview of Palermo's entire body of work, in that they document his entire repertoire of forms and concepts, functioning almost like a "catalogue raisonné" of his artistic career.
The prints are generally derived from unique artworks, such as the diptych titled Flipper (1970), which creates a visual play of line and color by pairing a screen-printed version of the artist's 1965 gridded, red, white, and blue oil on canvas painting of the same name (in the collection of the Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst) with a slightly altered composition. Other prints function in a sense as lasting documents for the artist's more site-specific and conceptual work, including the suite of 12 Original Lithographs (1970), which depict the varied geometric forms that Palermo executed as large wall drawings at the Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich in 1968; and Projection (1971), which presents an image of a two-paneled red and blue painting being projected onto a building façade. Several of the prints make repeated use of Palermo's signature idiom of forms and shapes. The four separate screen prints that make up Four Prototypes (1970) present Palermo's favorite recurring shapes: the black square, green triangle, grey oval, and blue triangle. As Anne Rorimer notes, "As the title implies, the series suggests an archetypal set of possible shapes, symmetrical or asymmetrical, geometric like the triangle or free-hand like the oval, with regular or irregular edges."
These shapes also formed the basis of the artist's multiples, which include small-scale three-dimensional versions of geometric forms. These "objects," which include a Blue Triangle (1969), a Black Box (1970), and a pair of triangles, one mirrored and one painted black (Untitled Dedicated to Thelonius Monk, 1973) are meant to hang directly on the wall: they call attention to the architectural context in which they are displayed by punctuating the space around them.
Blinky Palermo was born Peter Schwarze in Leipzig, Germany in 1943 and was adopted and raised under the name Peter Heisterkamp. He changed his name to Blinky Palermo, adopting the pseudonym from an American boxing promoter and small-time gangster. In the 1960s, he studied under Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Palermo died in 1977 at the age of 33 while traveling in the Maldives. Since his first solo exhibition in 1966 at Galerie Friedrich & Dahlem, Munich, Palermo’s work has been included in numerous important exhibitions in Europe and the United States at such institutions as the Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal (1968); Hamburger Kunstverein (1973); Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Bonn (1975); São Paulo Bienal (1975); Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1986); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1986); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1987); Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (1988); The Menil Collection, Houston (1989); Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig (1993); and the Kunstmuseum Bonn (1994). More recently, his work was shown in a traveling retrospective exhibition organized by the MACBA Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona and the Serpentine Gallery, London (2002-2003).
¹Anne Rorimer, "Blinky Palermo: Objects, Stoffbilder, Wall Paintings," in Blinky Palermo (Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona), p.71.