Palermo: Works on Paper


Texts by Christine Mehring and Christoph Schreier

Described by The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith as a “precocious art star,” German artist (Blinky) Palermo (1943–1977) has been associated with distinct twentieth-century art practices, from abstraction to Minimalism and Conceptual art. But his diverse body of work in fact defies easy classification. Throughout his brief and influential career—leading all the way up to his untimely death at the age of 33—Palermo executed paintings, objects, installations, and works on paper that mined various contextual and semantic issues at stake in the construction, exhibition, and reception of works of art, eternally “stretching and questioning” the boundaries of every medium he touched. 

This fully illustrated catalogue features new scholarship by Christine Mehring and Christoph Schreier and documents the 2013 exhibition at David Zwirner in New York. It is the first publication to tackle Palermo’s late work, which is characterized by explorations of the tensions between material and color, surface and depth, and figuration and abstraction—focusing in particular on the paper works he produced between 1976 and 1977, the last year of his life. “Less a system builder than an analyst working on intuition,” writes Schreier in his catalogue essay, Palermo “explored surface, shape, and color—the constituent elements of the image—with the aim of turning them into actors with a lively and delicately balanced play of forces.” The simplicity of the artist’s vision is beautifully evinced by the catalogue’s vibrant color plates, which reveal every stroke and each grain of paper shining through from behind the pigment.


Publisher: David Zwirner / Radius Books

Artists: Palermo

Contributors: Christine Mehring, Christoph Schreier

Designer: David Chickey, Skolkin/Chickey

Printer: Editoriale Bortolazzi Stei, Verona, Italy

Publication Date: 2014

Binding: Hardcover

Dimensions: 8 1/2 x 10 3/4 in (21.6 x 27.3 cm)

Pages: 134

Reproductions: 104 color

ISBN: 9781934435748

Retail: $50 US & Canada | £30 | €42

Status: Available


(Blinky) Palermo (1943–1977) was born Peter Schwarze in Leipzig. In 1962, he entered the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he studied with Bruno Goller and then with Joseph Beuys and, in 1964, appropriated the name Blinky Palermo from the American boxing promoter-cum-mafioso Frank “Blinky” Palermo, famous for managing heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Over the course of his short life, Palermo participated in more than seventy exhibitions worldwide, including Documenta in 1972 and the Venice Biennale in 1975. He has had posthumous retrospectives at the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (1984); Kunstmuseum Bonn (1993); Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) (2002); Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2007); and Dia:Beacon and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (CCS Bard) (2011).

All Palermo books

Christine Mehring

Christine Mehring holds a PhD from Harvard University and is Department Chair and Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago with interests in postwar European art, abstraction, design, and the relationship between new and old media. Mehring has written extensively on Palermo, including the monograph Blinky Palermo: Abstraction of an Era (2008). In 1999, she curated the exhibition Wols Photographs at the Harvard University Art Museum, and she regularly contributes to exhibition catalogues and publications including Artforum.

Christoph Schreier

Born in Dusseldorf in 1954, Christoph Schreier is Deputy Director of the Kunstmuseum Bonn, where he was hired as the museum’s first curator in 1992. After receiving his doctorate in art history, literature, and history at the Ruhr University in Bochum in 1982, he worked at the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden until 1984 and as a Scientific Assistant at the University of Siegen. His most recent publications include Marcel Odenbach:Works on Paper 1975–2013 (2014) and New York Painting (2015).