Blinky Palermo

Copyright © Gerhard Richter 2020 (02092020); Photo Gerhard Richter

Palermo looks at the world and art through slightly misted abstract glasses and transforms what he sees into a geometric web of dreams:

staircases and tower blocks, pinball machines (Flipper, 1970), heaven and earth, Bauhaus compositions and Broadway Boogie-Woogie, Novalis, butterflies, the blue flower. A triangular mirror with a black twin (Ohne Titel (gewidmet Thelonius Monk), 1973) seems like nightlife with jazz music to him, a re-painted board (Ohne Titel, 1965) like a wounded soul. A Black Box (Schwarzer Kasten, 1970) becomes a frame of mind that absorbs the world. It is an abstraction that does not deny the narrative aspect but embeds the graphically formed present in a longing that can only be called romantic.


Palermo’s way of working and living was influenced above all by the American Beat Generation, a counterculture that started in the 1950s with a group of New York writers, among them, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs und Jack Kerouac.
Disregarding any taboos, they wrote about their unconventional nomadic life, about sex, alcohol and drugs. It was their form of social criticism and a shock to the prudish America of the McCarthy era. The Beat Generation developed literary techniques to give their texts more immediacy. Kerouac, for instance, listened to jazz and hacked his words into the paper to the rhythm of the music. To avoid interrupting the flow of writing, he glued the paper together into a long roll that ran over the typewriter roller until the text was finished. This is how the manuscript for his most famous work “On the Road" was created. The content, the writing technique and the aesthetic form of the manuscript are the expression of an attitude to life that emanated from the Beat Generation and spread rapidly in the USA and far beyond.

Susanne Küper, Straight (Now Chaser), in: BLINKY PALERMO, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf 2020

Two triangles: Painted plywood and mirror laid on painted plywood
Left: 31,5 x 26,9 (a), 26,3 (b) x 3,1 cm
Right: 31,5 x 26,9 (a), 26,4 (b) x 3 cm
Edition of 30
Copyright VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020; Photo Simon Vogel, Cologne

During his time in the USA, Palermo often went to jazz clubs. It is possible that he saw the black jazz pianist Thelo­nious Monk live, in any case he dedicated a work to him in 1973.

Palermo arranged a black triangle placed on its apex and a mirror triangle next to each other. The triangle is one of the main motifs in Palermo’s work.

Susanne Küper, Straight (Now Chaser), in: BLINKY PALERMO, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf 2020

“As a teacher he showed me the way to myself and my possibilities”

Georg Jappe, Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler – aber nicht jeder ist ein Berufskünstler, 14 Interviews von Georg Jappe mit Joseph Beuys und dessen ehemaligen Schülern im Frankfurter Kunstverein während der Veranstaltung ‘mit­neben­gegen’, in: Kunstforum International, vol. 20, March 1977, p. 144–159, there p. 156

For all their closeness and the mutual respect of both artists, there were also differences. Palermo for instance never loaded found objects, like the wooden board [...] with such meanings as Beuys did with his materials. Quite the opposite,

he freed them from history, semantics and also theory, giving them a new lightness.

Talking about art and society was an inte­ gral part of his work for Beuys, be it with his students or wherever he was offered the opportunity. Palermo on the other hand, almost never spoke out about his work and was generally very quiet at a time when the student movement was becoming increasingly active and Düsseldorf too, was noisy and full of unrest.

Susanne Küper, Straight (Now Chaser), in: BLINKY PALERMO, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf 2020

Installation view of the exhibition at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven 1985; fifth work from left: Blinky Palermo, Ohne Titel, 1965

Copyright VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020; Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Photo Hans Biezen

En Bloc

"The future belongs to the multiple"

The publisher René Block

Edition Block was founded in 1966 and was located in Berlin's Schaperstraße, in the immediate vicinity of Galerie Block, which had been founded two years earlier. Along with Edition MAT, Multiples Inc. New York and the Milan Edition del Deposito, Edition Block is thus one of the oldest publishers of edition objects and prints by international contemporary artists. In a text dating from 1972, René Block wrote: "In recent years, the production and distribution of multiples and prints has taken on an unexpected significance within the art world. Due to the almost unlimited production possibilities created by industrial development, the examination of industrial production has become an important part of the production process for many artists. Everywhere, art dealers have taken account of their artists' demand for democratisation and socialisation of the art market and supported them by setting up editions".

Canvas on wooden box, painted black
15 × 15 × 5 cm
33 copies for the edition En Bloc of Galerie René Block, Berlin 1970
Copyright VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020; Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf; Photo Simon Vogel, Cologne

Block also pursued the principle of gathering several artists together for a joint edition, which is indicated in the graphic folders, on other occasions. En Bloc, 1969-72, for example, a wooden roll-up cabinet, contains in drawers objects by 19 well-known German artists - now a museum en miniature.


The most popular Düsseldorf artists’ meeting places in the 1960s were “Creamcheese”, the “Ratinger Hof”, which Carmen Knoebel ran together with Ingrid Kohlhöfer, Paler­ mo’s first wife, and the brewery “Zur Uel” right next door. Palermo was often to be found there, he drank excessively and sometimes played the pinball machine in the “Uel”. In 1970, he used the decoration on the side of the pinball machine as a reference for a two­part silk screen print.

Susanne Küper, Straight (Now Chaser), in: BLINKY PALERMO, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf 2020

Palermo made no distinction between what he saw in everyday life and what he knew from art. He took what surrounded him, placed it in a new context and set it vibrating.

In this way, simple materials and forms were vested with a special elegance and aura. The screenprint Flipper with its regular blue grid and the alternating white and red fields is cut off in such a way that the pattern could continue endlessly over the edges. Palermo juxtaposed the three­colour sheet with a two­colour red and white pre­press from the printing process further increasing the dynamics of this work through the rhythmic pulsation in the interplay of the two parts.

Susanne Küper, Straight (Now Chaser), in: BLINKY PALERMO, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf 2020

Blinky Palermo at Creamcheese in Düsseldorf 1969

Copyright © Gerhard Richter 2020 (02092020); Photo Gerhard Richter

Published on the occasion of the exhibition


October 8 - November 21, 2020

You can purchase the catalogue for 35,-€ (VAT. incl.) at our gallery or at Buchhandlung Walther König.

Our catalogue BLINKY PALERMO is inspired by the three iconic catalogues:

PALERMO - Werke 1963-1977


and Blinky Palermo 1964 - 1976

When he retells the history of modern painting in his nonchalant manner, boldly appropriating its previous accomplishments in order to give it a playful dreamy touch, it is this attitude that makes later generations of artists, from Günther Förg to Ceal Floyer, admirers of Palermo.

Gesine Borcherdt, The Sky is the Limit, in: BLINKY PALERMO, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf 2020