♔ FOUR ♛
Pictured above: Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel, Madrid, New Mexico, 1974 (Palermo and Knoebel traveled in the Southwest area of the United States by car in 1974. They visited the de Menil's Rothko Chapel, 1971 in Houston, Walter De Maria's Las Vegas Piece, 1969 and Michael Heizer's Double Negative, 1969.)
Blinky Palermo's life could be the plot of a Hollywood film. He was born a twin in Leipzig Germany in 1943 with the name Peter Schwarze. He was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Wilhelm Heisterkamp becoming Peter Heisterkamp and when his adopted mother died in 1958, he learned of is biological identity.
Studying graphic design in the Bauhaus style in his early adult-hood led him to the Düsseldorf Academy in 1962 where he was classmates with some of the most recognized German artists today.
His name, Blinky Palermo, was assigned to him by a classmate referencing the con-man and fight fixer in Philadelphia.
In 1964, he took classes with the ever-affecting Joseph Beuys where he quickly became his star pupil. Beuys supported Palermo's identity change having been quoted saying "To change your art, change yourself."
Heiner Friedrich (co-founder of Dia Art Foundation), of Heiner Friedrich Gallery in Cologne who represented artists including Robert Ryman, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Fred Sandback and many more (not a woman among them), first met Palermo in 1966 during the Academy's student exhibition. He would remain an important source of support for the rest of his life
Palermo had visited the United States, with Gerhard Richter, once in 1970 before he moved to New York City for three years in 1973. The city, and the country, would have a strong effect on him and be the impetus for one of his most loved installations.
His life ended early, possibly related to drug and alcohol use, while on vacation in the Maldives. At the age of 33, in 1977, Palermo died leaving a concise and ultimately brilliant body of work
The most important aspect of his work, to me, lies in the relationship he exemplified between the mind (inner) and location (outer), or what art historian Suzanne Hudson has called 'Psychic Geography'. Below is an excerpt from her essay in Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964 - 1977 published by Dia and Yale, 2010 on the occasion of the exhibition curated by Lynne Cooke.
"Resigning his habit of leaving works untitled, Palermo referred to New York as a place as much as a psychic geography in the titles of numerous works from 1975 including Coney Island and Wooster Street. The following year he began the epic To the People of New York City. The work typically, and not undeservedly, described as Palermo's "magnus opus," in the words of Robert Storr...."
"....contingency on location is not the same thing as transparency to it, especially once the painting has been detached from its referent's site. Indeed, the Metal Pictures evince a move from reflexive site-specificity continuous with its architectural surrounds to a present organization of space based on excerption from elsewhere."
Both Blinky Palermo and Ellsworth Kelly offer two sides of the same coin: alternate cut - outs of reality and an extensive liminal nature.
"There's no smoke without fire, as the saying goes; Kelly does not deny this, but he is solely interested in the smoke, and couldn't care less about the fire, as he prospects this illogical object, an index without a referent," said Yves-Alain Bois. Perhaps, we could argue that for Palermo, fire and smoke are equally present.