As a student at the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie in the early sixties, Palermo was a close friend of Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg and Sigmar Polke, with whom he shared studios. Together, they were at the center of a nascent art scene marked by awakening and revolution. In Dusseldorf, there was a critical opposition to classic forms of art, thanks in a large part to the teachings of Joseph Beuys, who cataclysmically broke down barriers between material, form, content, and action. As one of the original Beuysritter, or Knights of Beuys, Palermo's move into Beuys' class in 1964 was attended by a shift in his approach to the medium of painting. While his earlier work had tended towards figurative painting, under Beuys he became increasingly interested in the organized spatial relationship between form and color, a polarity made manifest throughout the rest of his oeuvre and epitomized by the Stoffbilder.
Comprised of two pieces of commercially produced fabric stitched together on a sewing machine and stretched over a traditional support, the present work, and greater corpus of Stoffbilder to which it belongs, presents color as predetermined and inseparable from both its format and its material substance. In this way the Stoffbilder eliminated the steps involved in the usual painting process to create entirely new pictorial results. The color combinations chosen by Palermo are those which can theoretically be found in nature as opposed to the fabricated synthetic color of the fabric’s industrial and ready-made origin. Though comparable to Richter, who produced his iconic Color Charts from a random selection of paint swatches and samples, Palermo instead looked to extend the remit of painting by eschewing its fundamental processes altogether. In a radical move, the Stoffbilder abandon brush, pigment, and the high ideals of Modernist abstraction in favor of the immediacy of Palermo’s ready-made pictorial invention. Part-Pop, part-Ab Ex, part-Conceptual, and part-proto-Minimalism, Palermo’s Stoffbilder inhabit a position of utmost importance in the pioneering trajectory of Twentieth-Century abstract art.
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