Landscapes and portraits salon styled on the walls of L.A Artcore Center for the Arts and abstract canvases make Jon Peterson’s exhibition, “Twelve Years of Painting” a journey of multiple junctures. Early on, his inventive inquiry began during his childhood while exploring the making and building of planes with wood and paper. This would lead to a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and a Master Degree in Fine Arts from Otis Art Institute /Parson School of Design. His artwork has been experienced throughout the country and all across the state of California. Peterson’s work transitions between painting and sculptures dating back to the 1970s.
After a long pause away from painting, the portraits in this exhibition became a daily exercise that helped Peterson re-kick start the practice of painting. It was the direct process of engagement with family pictures and images of people that inspired a sequence of portraits of family, fashionable people and prisoners. The strokes are light with no sign of urgency. He sees a picture and adds what is missing; strokes of feelings, symbols and a dash of emotions. This light hearted activity over the years progressed into more complex subject matter.
In an abstract Portrait of Ellsworth Kelly 2012, Peterson gravitates to an image of Kelly’s test spots on a wall while he is photographed at his studio by the New York Times. Peterson intrigued by the spots emulates the markings onto an open canvas amplifying sporadic weightless gesture of paint that resemble Calder’s hanging mobiles sculptures and Joan Miro’s color field collaboration between bolds primary colors.
Further into the exhibit, Peterson’s visual narratives begin to fade and fog until the eye meets a network of grids, dashes, drips, splashes and multiple colored large texture canvases that resemble an urban city layout. This series known as map paintings entails an imposed architectural structure countered by the element of surprise that comes with abstract accidental discoveries. In Map painting E.K. IN L.A. VI 2017, Peterson works his way from washes with uneven white wax lines forming a mesh like appearance of roads, streets and avenues with active greens, reds, and hints of yellow. This accumulated process is met with faint human figures projected between thick layers of paint that bring a sense of disorientation. There is a condensed breathing of life interconnected with every step Peterson takes in creating the overall juxtaposed matrix in this body of work.
In the spring of 2011 several Arab countries took to the streets beginning in Tunisia to protest decades of repression known as The Arab Spring. This historical moment is caught by Peterson with a series of paintings titled Battle of Algiers named after a 1966 black and white film production with the same title. The film depicts the struggle between the Algerians and the French colonizers. The almost documentary like quality to the film directed and co-written by Gillo Pontecorvo comes after the Algerian Liberation Movement gains its independence from the French State.
The political connotation in these paintings reflects the tension between the colonizer and the colonized, oppression from within and the political imposition of western countries. Battle of Algiers is a group of paintings that superimpose the fight for self determination by Arab nations in the likeness of an artist who struggles to find a path to un-constraint every stroke dashed onto a canvas. For Peterson, “There is no war here in Pasadena, but still you read the newspaper, you watch the news, and those things affect you. I start with an image or an idea that has some personal meaning and use, that is a beginning.” The compositions in Battle of Algiers are asymmetrical. There is an aggressive gesture not in the drawing, but in the content of the drawing. There is an absence of despair and a presence of struggle in Battle of Algiers that consolidates with the hopes of a colonized people. The presences of ghostly silhouettes are obscure, undefined and faceless. In Battle of Algiers XIV, 2016 a sunflower yellow with hidden taps of gold become the skyline above what seems to be a gray pale lifeless battlefield. In the forefront of this scene two standing figures in green gather around a dark murky outline on the ground, surrounded by strokes of red. In Springtime, 2011, with short wiggling strokes Peterson camouflages a lifeless soul amongst a promising spring.
Jon Peterson redistributes sensibility throughout his work that begins long before this exhibit. His work not only does it search to explore patterns, colors compositions, and intuitive manifestations, but examines the social and political outcomes that play with aesthetic rituals.