Blinky Palermo


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Abstraction of an Era

Christine Mehring

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Twenty-one-year-old Peter Heisterkamp began signing his colorful and playful abstract artworks Palermo in 1964, when peers noted his resemblance to the American gangster Frank “Blinky” Palermo. This handsome book—a historical and critical study of Palermo’s painting from the time he entered Joseph Beuys’s now famous class at the Düsseldorf academy in 1964 to his death in 1977—explores his significance for postwar and abstract art.


Christine Mehring notes that over the course of Palermo’s brief career he created five concurrent but distinct bodies of work: objects, cloth-pictures, wall-paintings, metal-pictures, and collaborative projects, primarily with his friend and colleague Gerhard Richter. Mehring shows how each of these groups demonstrates Palermo’s efforts to lead German art out of its international isolation and to transform modernist painting into historically resonant abstraction by incorporating artifice, humor, period colors, and play.

Christine Mehring is associate professor of art history at The University of Chicago.

"This study is without a question an important contribution to the literature.  It intelligently addresses a gap between studies of the expressive abstraction of the 1940's and 1950's. . . . Reading and looking at it, one can reflect on the limits and effects of art history while learning much in pleasurable form."—James A. Van Dyke, German Studies Review

"Mehring's extraordinary research rewards us with a beautifully legible portrait of an evolving postwar European art world, and also with acute formal observations, tethered to a satisfyingly linear argument, that help teach us how to look at such painting."—Rachel Haidu, Art Journal

ISBN: 9780300122381
Publication Date: February 10, 2009
320 pages, 8 x 10
98 b/w + 64 color illus.