Dance a Slow Dance

Blinky Palermo Straight 1965

“He painted a blue triangle at that time. Y’know, he drank a lot, and we used to go to this bar on 14th Street, and there was a bartender’s sister—-the bartender was a woman, and her sister would sit at the bar. Blinky would go and ask her to dance. He’d put a coin in the juke box, ask her to dance a slow dance, and after the dance he would escort her to her seat at the bar, and then he’d come over and sit with me. Then he’d do it again. He was a very funny guy. Very formal. And he drank a lot, and he also ate a lot of hamburgers. And he smelled like onions a lot of the time.” [Julian Schnabel on Blinky Palermo’s fallow period in NYC]

Blinky Palermo Dia Installation 2015

“Both Newman and Palermo were pursuing a quest for the nature and ultimately destabilization of perception through their works in question. The viewer of To the People of New York City cannot comprehend a particular scheme. “Seriality in the Metal Pictures is neither repetitive nor systematic, as in a work by Donald Judd or SolLeWitt; instead Palermo’s permutations invite but ultimately frustrate the viewer’s search for a rationale.” Similarly, “a whole range of Newman’s production seems to have been involved in a radical attack against any kind of assurance that we might falsely attribute to our perception.” The much debated origin of Palermo’s color choice in To the People of New York City, in addition to its the non-systematic seriality, are in turn reminiscent of Newman’s works’ vacillating elements that Bois refers to when stating, “in Newman’s works the figure and ground [the zip and the background], are irreconcilable. We cannot both fix the zip and look at the painting at the same time, and it is precisely upon this impossibility that Newman based the dazzling effect of his canvasses.” Barnett Newman use of color was richly evocative. The colors of his works were vehicles that reached out to viewers and invited them to take part. “The effect of these new pictures is that the shapes and colors act as symbols to [elicit] sympathetic participation on the part of the beholder in the artist’s vision.” Color acted as a symbol, and the fact that he utilized primary colors—red, yellow and blue—was, in fact, his method of deemphasizing the objectivity of his painting. Likewise, “Palermo began to compose his work in relation to a square format, and in eschewing illusionistic space, he too favored a dense, almost monochromatic surface that asserts both its materiality as paint and its identity as painting. What distinguishes his new work and at the same time, most clearly separates it from that of his American peers is the preeminence he continued to accord color. On occasion his color, like theirs, could assume a kind of literalness, a givenness—though not via a deadpan monochrome but through palettes of primaries.” [Barnett Newman vs Blinky Palermo]

Blinky Palermo To The People of New York City Part IX 1976

“The metal paintings that originated in the US contain explicit references to time or place — Coney IslandWooster StreetTimes of the Day — and are in turn bound up with the sequential form of these compositions. Palermo lived in New York for about two and a half years, from 1973 to 1976. His reasons for moving there were manifold: his serious interest in American postwar art, specifically Newman and Rothko, his love for jazz music and his search for artistic inspiration. The small acrylic paintings on aluminum he produced in New York come in a serial format and strive for an emphasis on the object-like quality of the individual components. They seem to be a result of his introduction to, and confrontation with, American minimalist painting; color is used as a structural component. The specific object-like quality of the metal paintings results from the many layers of paint Palermo applied to the aluminum plates. The viewer has to move around them because the series can’t be taken in from a single vantage point. If you think of Bruce Nauman and his interest in human scale, the interaction between body and work, you get close to the spirit that characterizes these ‘American works.’” [Vanessa Joan Müller on Blinky Palermo]

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