Peterson’s early work included paintings applied directly to the walls of the galleries in which he was showing. As he explains in “Young Turks,” “I wanted to create a work that would transcend its environment.” The result were paintings with no foregrounds, where whatever happened in front of the piece became the subject of the piece.
This led Peterson to another, more radical, means of blurring the line between viewer and subject. Peterson used theories he had picked up as an aeronautical engineer and sculptural theories he learned at Otis Art Institute to craft what became known as “bum shelters,” brightly colored structures that he placed in the environment surrounding his loft between Little Tokyo and Skid Row. As he explains in “Young Turks,” these pieces viewed in the context of a gallery had one meaning, while when they were in a parking lot or alley, they took on a whole different meaning and actually were used as shelter by the homeless denizens around downtown.
More recently, Peterson has turned to more traditional painting, but with a twist: He is reinterpreting the drawings of a woman named “Phyllis T.,” whose scrapbook of sketches he bought for $20 at the Pasadena Swap Meet. The resulting canvases are both humorous and haunting.
A new book edited by “Young Turks” filmmaker Pamela Wilson examines Peterson’s career in depth, with essays by critics Peter Plagens and Constance Mallinson. Peterson will be signing copies of the book at the opening of the LA Artcore exhibition on Sunday, April 7.
The exhibit will continue through April 28.