Art Exhibition’s Mob Ties

pal xii to the people of new york city 1976 Art Exhibitions Mob TiesWith all the media attention being garnered by the arrest, in Santa Monica on Wednesday, of Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, it would seem unfortunate if a long-dead German painter having a long-overdue New York retrospective couldn’t profit by some of it.

For those familiar with the history of organized crime, the name Blinky Palermo conjures an image of Frank “Blinky” Palermo, a Philadelphia mobster in the 1940s and 50s, manager of boxer Sonny Liston, and notorious fight fixer who was eventually arrested for extortion and racketeering, and died in obscurity in 1996.

A year after Palermo’s 1961 arrest in Philadelphia, and a world away, a young German painter named Peter Heisterkamp (born Peter Schwarze, he was adopted) began studying with charismatic artist and teacher Joseph Beuys at the Kunstadademie Dusseldorf. Shortly after beginning his studies there, Mr. Heisterkamp changed his name to Blinky Palermo. This weekend, the Dia Foundation in Beacon, New York, opens the first-ever U.S. retrospective of the artist. Writes curator Lynne Cooke in the show’s  catalog: “In appropriating the name of the manager of American boxer Sonny Liston (whom he supposedly resembled), the young artist affirmed his long-standing reverence for American culture, its jazz, its Beat literature, and above all its postwar art.”

The show, which was organized by Dia and has already appeared at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC,  is in two parts — one is at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. — and opens to the public tomorrow. It has some resonance with the Dia’s history — the institution opened its 22nd Street space in Chelsea, which it left two years ago, in 1987 with an exhibition of Mr. Palermo’s paintings.

Mr. Palermo made seemingly simple, but formally ultra-sophisticated abstract paintings using basic geometric forms, like triangles and squares; he died at age 33 in 1977, while on vacation in the Maldives. You might say he was an artist’s artist — Julian Schnabel once made a painting called The Unexpected Death of Blinky Palermo in the Tropics — but that is not to say he wasn’t prolific, or even little-shown. In fact, he participated in some 70 exhibitions before he died, most of them in Europe. But even today, his work is underappreciated in the United States; the Dia’s retrospective presumably seeks to correct that.

Back in 1987, New York Times critic Roberta Smith visited an exhibition of Mr. Palermo’s work at Sperone Westwater gallery, then in Soho, and called him “a purist, but a liberated, freewheeling purist.” Visiting the current retrospective in DC in April, Ms. Smith wrote that Mr. Palermo’s work evinces “openness to history, to playful suggestion and to the complexity of visual experience, guided by a stringent sense of economy and strong doubts about painting’s traditional materials.” She also noted that he was considered “a precocious art star” at the time of his death. The art world is always on the look out for those; it will be worth revisiting what they looked like in the past.

Comments

  1. Regina Matlock says:

    Obituary

    Domonique Monaé Matlock was
    born the second of three children to Regina Deneen and Clifford Nathan Matlock,
    Jr. on January 25, 1992 in Los Angeles, California. She and her two sisters Britany
    and Deanna were raised in West Covina, California, where she attended Hollingsworth
    Elementary.  She then attended Suzanne Middle
    School and Walnut High School. When she recognized her calling as an artist she
    transferred to the School of Arts and Enterprise (The SAE) in Pomona,
    California.

    During her junior year,
    Domonique was given the opportunity to attend Oxbow School of Art in Napa,
    California for a semester. She enjoyed this unique opportunity and subsequently
    returned  to The SAE where she graduated
    with honors. After graduating she was accepted into LEAPNOW in Northern
    California where she transformed her education and traveled abroad to India.
    There she was able to spend a season immersed in the life of Varanasi, one of
    India’s holiest cities.  The primary
    purpose of this semester was to serve others, and learn about service, while
    experiencing the richness of life in India. 
    She continued her service and education by living with a family in
    Sacramento, California who had children with special needs and was able to utilize
    her sign language skills.

    Domonique returned home to
    Pomona, California after taking ill.  She
    took time off from her studies to deal with an unknown medical condition.  After a one-year recovery she was accepted to
    the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia. Upon arriving in
    Georgia, she took ill again and was hospitalized and later airlifted back to
    California, where she remained in the hospital. Doctors were unable to diagnose
    her condition and believed it to be a rare auto immune system disorder. After
    being released from the hospital, Domonique began her recovery at home.  She touched and changed lives of many in her
    19 years and moved the earth with her love.

    Domonique had a spirit beyond her
    years. Not only was she an amazing talented artist, she was gifted with a strong,
    rich alto singing voice that was full of life. She has been described by many
    as having an excellent voice, a jazzy singing voice that enlightened your soul
    when she sang and afforded her the opportunity to perform on numerous occasions
    including the Temecula Music Festival.  She
    loved children and would look for every opportunity to help someone. She was a
    charter member of the PFC Adrienne L. Mitchell Ladies Auxiliary Junior Girls
    Unit 11087- Fifth District and at the age of 16 she became a member of the
    Ladies Auxiliary 2122-Forth District.  Domonique

    was also an environmentalist that wanted to save the earth. Domonique’s
    proudest accomplishment was that of being a loving daughter and sister.

    Domonique began her Eternal
    Life on November 27, 2011 at 3:12AM when she passed away in her sleep. Her
    father Clifford Nathan Matlock, Jr., preceded her in death.

    Ms. Matlock
    My name is Jordan Tidball-Sciullo, and I have had the privilege to get to know Domonique and to spend time with her during our LeapYear experience. Although she was only a part of my life for the past few years, I will always cherish the time I have been able to have with her. I am writing you to not only express my condolences, but also to reflect on my time with Domonique and the strong impres…sion she left on me (and I presume many others). To me Domonique was one of those rare people who let her heart guide the way in which she moved about the world. Whatever she was doing, whether it be cooking a meal, working on the land, or conversing with others, it was done with compassion, intention, and unwavering energy. Unlike the majority of people who let external wants and needs define them, Domonique manifested on the outside exactly the same person she was on the inside. I noticed no need for acceptance, no mask put on to impress those surrounding her, she was just genuine, truly genuine. She also had a way of infecting those around her with an optimistic energy through a variety of different media. Often it would be her radiant smile, her unwavering compassion, and her authenticity that brought out the best in those surrounding her. And that voice! Oh, my lord that voice! I am at a loss for words here. The only word I can think of to sum up the beauty of Domoniques voice is angelic. She was able to empathize with the lyrics in a song to a degree I have never seen, and doubt I will ever see again. When singing about pain, hardship, loss, or grief, tears would sometimes well up in her eyes and the emotional depth of the lyrics were truly evident in her voice. In short, Domonique was an amazing person and was (and still is) an inspiration to me. She was a being who was truly authentic, compassionate, intentional, and energetic, consistently aware of what was moving inside her, and maintaining an intimate connection with whatever arose. As I continue on my own journey through this world I have no doubt that Domonique is somewhere else continuing to inspire and serve other beings. I would like to offer you my gratitude for giving birth to Domonique and allowing for her to be a part of my life!I’m looking for a way to get my daughter’s art work out there, she always told me she would be famous one day. Please email me with ideas Thank You !  reginamatlock@yahoo.com