Cleon Peterson is an LA-based artist known for his fearless depictions of man at his worst. Void of subtlety or symbolism, his 2 dimensional figures are always presented mid-conflict - raping, pillaging, and murdering. Little to no context or motivation is given for the senseless acts of his characters; however, changing physiques (and accessories) over recent years give hints that reference deviations in time; previous works feature fully clothed men with guns and police officers with batons, while his newest pieces display men in loincloths swinging prehistoric spears. What unites them is the propensity towards violence, ego and self-indulgence that has been a defining characteristic of ‘civilization’ since early man.
Inspired by Leon Golub, Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley, Peterson is drawn to the subtexts considered when faced with violence, abuse of power and perversion - the psychological motivation for brutality, and the sociological forces that harbor a climate of anger and disorder. His paintings depict both debaucherous city scenes and intimate battles, contrasting mob mentality with eye-for-an-eye vengeance. “Everything I do is a reaction to the world we live in,” Peterson says. “I’m always thinking about what’s going on inside and outside of our country, between race, power and religion. I think there are huge problems in the world that have been going on forever and people have good reasons to be angry and seek change.” Peterson’s work is stylistically minimal, focusing on form, two-dimensionality and a limited palette of black, white, red and neutrals.