Blinky Palermo: Coney Island II
Imagine you are trying to recount your day using just 12 rectangles of eight colors in a strict configuration on four metal panels, then doing it again with the same layout but using only three colors – and you might understand the last years of Blinky Palermo, the pseudonymous German painter who died mysteriously in 1977 at the age of 33, and whose short, intense life’s work is the subject of a retrospective at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson and at Dia:Beacon.
Part minimalist, part color-field abstractionist, part performance artist, Palermo got his nom d’artiste while studying with Joseph Beuys, and he took plenty of Beuys’s style with him, too – but the clear influences of a wide swath of artists form a snaking modern line: Malevich, Mondrian, Yves Klein, Mark Rothko, Sol LeWitt, Ellsworth Kelly, and Gerhard Richter all come easily to mind – and, still, Palermo shines through as unique, personal, even soulful in these two meticulously researched and installed exhibitions that really form one strong solo show.
The basic premise is that Palermo has been wrongly overlooked, and that the recognition provided by this event is overdue, specifically in the United States, where he worked for much of his brief time, and where he apparently felt insufficiently appreciated (while being quite successful in Europe as a whole and Germany in particular). While I would not presume to be able to judge the importance of a long-dead artist of the ’60s and ’70s in relation to others of his time, whether living or dead, I will say this: I loved the shows, and have no doubt that Palermo was the real thing.
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