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Palermo: Works on Paper 1976-1977    Apr 25 - Jun 29, 2013


David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of works on paper from 1976-1977 by German artist Palermo (on view at the gallery’s 537 West 20th Street location). Drawn from museum and private collections, the exhibition has been organized in collaboration with the Palermo Archive on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the artist’s birth. The majority of the works on view were executed in New York, where the artist lived and worked from 1973 until the spring of 1976. The artist died in February 1977.

Although it has been linked with distinct 20th Century art practices—including abstraction, Minimalism, and Conceptual art—Palermo’s diverse body of work defies easy classification. Throughout his brief and influential career, Palermo executed paintings, objects, installations, and works on paper that addressed the contextual and semantic issues at stake in the construction, exhibition, and reception of works of art. His handling of form and color comprises a complex and experimental investigation of aesthetic concepts and of the semiotic possibilities of visual language.

The artist’s late work is characterized by its explorations of the tensions and contrasts between, for example, material and color; surface and depth; and signification and abstraction. Like his paintings from this period, many of the drawings on view are serial in their composition, thus calling attention to the context in which they are exhibited. Included in the exhibition is 1-7 Untitled (for Babette), 1976 (collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York), a seven-part work executed in vibrant red acrylic on paper which presents the traces of the artist’s brushwork and proposes variations of geometric forms. Similarly, 1-12 12 Monate, 1976 (Private Collection) suggests an idiomatic language of form and composition in twelve distinct, painted drawings that refer abstractly to the twelve months of the year.

Works such as Das Rätsel, 1976 and Nevada, 1977 (both Private Collection) point towards the artist’s interest in American abstract painting practices in their simultaneously expressionistic and minimal motifs and chromatic execution. While many of the works in the exhibition engage with a looser, more experimental approach to form, color, and composition, others relate more directly to fully-realized works, such as his proposals for compositions for To The People of New York, a large-scale installation of paintings comprised of forty metal panels grouped in variations of red, yellow, and black, which occupied most of his artistic focus during the last year of his life.

Executed at the end of the artist’s brief career, Palermo’s works on paper from 1976-1977 suggest a kind of summation of his artistic practice: not only do they exemplify his ongoing experimentation with the symbolic and formal possibilities of composition and space, but they also convey his understanding of color as a system of signs.

On the occasion of the exhibition, the gallery will publish a fully-illustrated catalogue that will include new scholarship by Christine Mehring (University of Chicago) and Christoph Schreier (Kunstmuseum Bonn).

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