Peter Zimmermann

13 Jan - 24 Feb 2007


Looking at the recent paintings of Peter Zimmermann, it is not difficult to imagine the artist taking the whole retinal history of art and its attendant techniques from the past four decades, slinging it all over his back, and bearing it back to the very moment when Clement Greenberg declared color field to be the apex of his programmatic Modernism. Alas, to that very moment when Greenberg claimed painting to have achieved an unprecedented purity by becoming one with its support (i.e., unprimed canvas, Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler). And in the exact place where Greenberg brought down his fist full of purity, Zimmermann turns his over and opens it up, releasing (seamlessly, one might add) onto “the support,” some forty some odd years of accumulated “impurity.”
German artist, Peter Zimmermann often works from texts or book covers, which he takes and scans into his computer. The source material then proceeds to mutate into imagery via Photoshop and various digital manipulations. Aside from an occasional foray into figuration, by the time the digital file is projected onto a canvas and is ready for execution, the actual source material has been effectively rendered unintelligible. The artist then applies numerous strata of pigmented and dyed acrylic resin to the support, transforming the contents into palpable and mellifluous bodies of light and color. While literally liquidating the gesture vis-à-vis the history of gestural painting, Zimmermann’s pictures nevertheless move, or suggest a kind of kinetic shifting of shape and mass. Paradoxically the work remains gestural, but in the most mediated and unorthodox way.
Beyond being thoroughly anchored in a specific tradition of abstract painting, the sheer doubling power of this protean work is truly exceptional. For example: the artist starts by deforming his source material, and initially looking at such deformed imagery, one may have the impression of a microscope being trained in upon some kind of primary life form or matter itself. Amorphous amoeba-like hieroglyphics yield to both mountainous and subaqueous topographies, replete with hot and cold zones, whose warped and colliding temperatures suggest some mysterious rationale, if not the rationale of Pop. Likewise suggested is some kind of blown-up infrared fragment, denatured by an arbitrary color-by-numbers’ logic.
Such a broad host of associations merely serve to underline Zimmermann’s unique relationship to, so to speak, painterly autonomy. In keeping with a reversal of Greenberg’s program, Zimmermann does not raise the stakes of autonomy (i.e., constant purification) so much as he alters them, unilaterally opening them up. Such an opening up responds to and pays homage to everything from photography to Minimalism, the Finish Fetish of John McCracken, as well the work of Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Peter Halley, David Reed, just to name a few. The work manages to play on a number of fields: without forsaking the specificity of the tradition in which it participates, it manages to unlock it, hybridize it, and create the possibility for others. As such, Zimmermann can be counted among those whose work functions to ensure the continued relevance of “painting.”

Tags: Helen Frankenthaler, Peter Halley, Morris Louis, John McCracken, David Reed, Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, Peter Zimmermann