Blinky Palermo

Posted on December 20, 2010

Blinky Palermo, born Peter Schwarze, aka Peter Heisterkamp (June 2, 1943 – February 18, 1977 in Male’), was a German abstract painter. Schwarze (whose last name became Heisterkamp when he was adopted as an infant) was given his outlandish name in 1964, during his studies with Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. The name refers to an American Mafioso and boxing promoter who was famous at the time for “owning” Sonny Liston. According to legend, it was given to Schwarze at the suggestion of Beuys when the famous teacher noticed the physical resemblance between Schwarze and the gangster.

Blinky Palermo was famous for his spare monochromatic canvases and “fabric paintings” made from simple lengths of colored material cut, stitched and stretched over a frame. Later in his career, he would develop his work in situ for large-scale architectural installations, often incorporating wall drawings. His works bear a surface relationship to Constructivism and Minimalism, but the Modernist sensibility is also undermined by a sophisticated sense of humor and his insistence on the painterly and expressive, as evidenced in his poetic titles.

In 1973, he moved his practice to New York City where he remained until his mysterious death while on vacation in the Maldives in 1977. One of his last and most famous works is a painting in 15 parts composed of 40 panels, titled To the People of New York City (1976).

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