Cleon Peterson: No Place (Utopia)
Mindy Solomon is pleased to present in collaboration with Albertz Benda Gallery, a solo exhibition of works by Cleon Peterson. In his newest show, Peterson explores the human condition and the price we pay for joy at the expense of others. Depicted in his signature graphic style, Peterson continues to challenge and engage the viewer to question their own place in the social hierarchy. Peterson writes:
As I was growing up, my grandmother told me, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” For years I thought about this trying to understand what exactly she meant.
The idea of progress drives us. The assumption deep within us is that as time marches forward, technology, science, and politics will make the world a more peaceful, just, and equitable place. Although this story we tell ourselves sounds good, it presumes that we’re all working together towards common goals denying our darker individual and tribal impulses for power and security.
Today we’re confronted with existential issues: Environmental crisis, war, displaced populations, a pandemic, technological revolution, disinformation, and inequity, to name a few.
When unbalance comes, confusion and cultural dissonance prevail. Hysteria and anger become the demagogue’s fodder—allowing despots to sway the public with false sleight-of-hand utopian promises and culture wars. Built-in is always the same problem; if it weren’t for them or this, we could have a perfect world.
Today’s victims are the powerless and marginalized and political and institutional obstacles to absolute power. We see it in language, policy, baseline human respect for one another, our freedoms, and our liberties.
And so, we again find ourselves in a time of evil. I use evil, a word more significant than good or bad. Because it’s only in times of fervor and blind idealism that people can justify this brand of action. It’s easy to be tempted into “The Road to Hell” trap when we see thinking like, “When God’s on our side, we can do no wrong.” Or, if we were to frame the same thought in ideological terms, if we’re working towards an ideal (Utopia) or trying to make the world in our image, we can do no wrong.
After all this time, you would think we would learn from our historical blunders and change for the better. Sadly the saying, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” continues to ring true. And how the idea of Utopia, its Greek translation being “no place,” has become a recurring nightmare.
Peterson’s oeuvre continues to evolve as society moves from one catastrophe to the next. Utilizing a minimal palette to maximum effect, his finely crafted stylized figures and landscapes put a single-minded focus on the subject at hand. Brutally honest, and without pretense, Peterson proves he is an artist that speaks to society with truth and integrity.
About Cleon Peterson
Cleon Peterson is an LA-based artist whose chaotic and violent paintings show clashing figures symbolizing a struggle between power and submission in the fluctuating architecture of contemporary society. He has exhibited at institutions in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as in Australia, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Singapore.
Peterson has been profiled by Artsy, Hyperallergic, and LA Weekly, among others, and his work has accompanied articles in leading publications such as The New Yorker and The New York Times.