Cleon Peterson sums up the nature of his work in three words:
Blood, lust and vengeance.
“End of Days,” is his latest series at New Image Art, which runs through March 22. This art hurls its message with color alone. Fiery neon red assaults the eyes, clashing with the starkest blacks and whites. The scale spans intimate sized panels to looming, physically swallowing scenes. Archetypal warrior and victim figures entwine in vast battlefields and narrow, squalid streets. Segments of tightly controlled chaos piece together into overwhelming and alarming puzzles. They sound a battle cry both frozen and dynamic, ringing from ancient to present-day times: be aware of this side of nature, which lays both beyond and squarely in our hands. Peterson states:
I’d like people to look at the work critically and see how its darkness…runs through our society and individuals at large. There’s a cultural repression and denial that wants to exclude and deny this basic part of our humanity.
Cleon’s work channels primal forces and times immemorial. It manifests in ambiguous eras and in clearly modern day locations. Its dramas play out in remote natural landscapes and in underbellies of seedy urban alleyways. In either environment, the complex and violent wilderness is declared in a language of graceful precision. The apocalypse, it seems to say, like heaven and hell, are not situated in any moment or place. Their realities are a projection of the essence of our beings.
Peterson has been represented by curator and gallery owner Marsea Goldberg at New Image Art for a number of years, and the gallery has been home to many of his shows. This one moved into some new territory for the artist. He explains:
I changed up the scale and made the paintings a little bigger so they’d have more presence. I wanted to fill the space so it felt like you were walking into my world, not just a room with paintings hanging on the walls.
Viewers see the final, polished products of an artist’s efforts, often without realizing how much blood, sweat, tears and elbow grease went into its production. As if the planning and creation of the work aren’t enough, the installation of a show can be very technically and physically demanding. Cleon’s background as a masterful designer serves him well in this regard. The work was tailored from day one to the specific dimensions of the gallery, and a team assisted in its execution. It took about six months.
Peterson is gaining ever-increasing and well-deserved recognition. What’s on the horizon? Making the work’s presence as universal as its message:
In the next few months, more murals in Europe and soon after that another show.
Witness Cleon’s newest body of work, “End of Days,” at New Image Art from February 22 through March 22. Gallery information and hours available at www.newimageartgallery.com.