Urban Art

Cleon Peterson

United States 1973

Urban Art, Street Art


Cleon Peterson
Cleon Peterson
United States
March 17, 2014

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.

Cleon Peterson was following his bliss…

He was born in Seatlle and received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit, MI and a BFA in Graphic Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He actually left the school system at the very early age fourteen to obtain his GED and head straight to art school.
“I don’t have contempt towards good schools or the fundamentals they teach. As a kid I was lucky because I lived with my grandfather who was an English professor, theologian, and poet. We’d take long walks and talk philosophy, sociology, religion, psychology, literature and art. He was a cynic and we’d always talk about how absurd the world was. Before I went to college, in what would have been eighth grade for me, he taught my brother and me home school. We read Shakespeare and Machiavelli and memorized all the world’s rivers. We didn’t conform to the standard school structure, but just studied what was of interest at the time. Joseph Campbell talks about following your bliss. In the end, I think everyone should follow this advice and find something like and pursue it.”
For a while, he used to live in San Diego and was one of the most sought after illustrators in the skateboard business. Cleon has designed logos and graphics for Foundation Skateboards, Pig Wheels, and Zero Skateboards to name a few.

Violence as the status quo

Cleon’s paintings are monochromatic while channeling at the same time the fashion sensibility of the early 80’s, complete with skinny ties and day glow colors. In Cleon Peterson’s anxiety-riddled world, violence is the status quo. His dystopian scenes evoke Thomas Hobbes’ description of life as war between individuals: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Many of Peterson’s paintings feature images of hostility removed from any scenery that might bring reason to bear a sense of justness to the brutality; the only context given is the mélange of evisceration coating the floor. In other works, the setting is a cityscape where storefronts only serve to indulge the base narcissism and vice taking place on the streets.
His shadowy figures mete out violence in images that could just as well depict justice as they do barbarity. Peterson’s work can be viewed as both a continuation and a progression of past works, in which graphically rendered scenes of sadism portray chaos as the inevitable order of things. Many of those scenes have featured characters with physical appearances largely undifferentiated from one another, suggesting a classless unsympathetic society, yet in this new body of work Peterson incorporates “shadow” figures and a new dichotomous order. There are haves and have-nots, but amid the havoc it’s hard to decide who’s who.

Cleon Peterson’s “shadows”

One thing that remains clear throughout Peterson’s work is the incongruity of insensate cruelty and acute suffering. Though their acts are purely savage, the “shadows” hardly show signs of malignancy in their reductive facial features. Their motions are calculated, their postures balanced, athletic and mechanical. Their victims, by contrast, appear defenseless and in shock, often wearing expressions of horror reminiscent of the targets in Goya’s painting The Third of May 1808. They are not, however, powerless in all senses, if the backdrops of topiaries and foyers suggest anything. Ultimately, it’s up to the viewer to take sides and feel sympathy or schadenfreude a pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others., indignation or catharsis.
“The darker experiences of my life stand out and create mental and emotional dissidence. I’ve always been driven to understand my life and my place in the world and to create something meaningful in the process. I’ve had plenty of positive experiences in life too, but because of my natural disposition anger and chaos are what fuel my creativity.”

Currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2014End Of DaysNew Image Art Gallery, Santa Monica, CASolo
2013There is a WarThe Outsiders, London, UKSolo
2013Brutal by Lazarides & The Vinyl FactoryThe Strand, London, UKGroup
2012The BrinksmanGuerrero Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USASolo
2012These Friends ThreeTHIS Gallery, LOs Angeles, CAGroup
2011White FlagJoshua Liner Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2011Public DomaineLa Gaîté Lyrique, Paris, FRGroup
2011PostermatThe Hole, New York, NYGroup
2011New Image ArtMiami, Scope, Miami, FLGroup
2011Pure LogoNew Image Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2011This PLace in TimeShow & Tell, Toronto, CanadaGroup
2010Summer Group ExhibitionJoshua Liner Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2010The UnconsoledA.L.I.C.E. Gallery, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
2010DaybreakNew Image Art, Los Angeles, USASolo
2010New Image ArtMiami, Art Basel, Miami, FLGroup
2010The Power of Selection, Part 3Western Exhibitions, Chicago, ILGroup
2010Moniker Art FairNew Image Art, London, EnglandGroup
2010Come As You ArePirsm, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2010Inaugural Group ShowGuerrero Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2009The UnconsoledA.L.I.C.E. Gallery, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
2009Beach Blanket Bingo – A Summer Mixer Group ExhibitionJonathan Levine Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2009August Group ExhibitionJoshua Liner Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2009OctopussesNew Image Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
200914 ArtistsNew Image Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2009The Mirror Stage, Cleon Peterson and Kill PixieMonster Children Gallery, Sydney, AustraliaSolo
2009The OccupationNew Image Art, Los Angeles, CASolo
2008Kill Pixie and Cleon PetersonWhite Walls Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2008TrailblazersBoutwell Draper Gallery, Sydney, AustraliaGroup
2008Park LifeSubliminal Projects, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2008Poster Renaissance 2New Image Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2008VASF GalleryLocals Only, San Francisco, CAGroup
2008Scope New YorkNew Image Art, New York, NYGroup
2008GingerNew Image Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2007Art BaselDeitch Projects, Miami Beach, FLGroup
2007Aqua Art MiamiNew Image Art, Miami Beach, FLGroup
2007Those Damn YanksLeonard Street Gallery, London, UKGroup
2007Mail Order MonstersDeitch Projects, New York, NYGroup
2007BrodeoNew Image Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup