Cleon Peterson

Frenzied scenes of savagery with a side of social critique.

Cleon Peterson (he/him) was born in 1973 in Seattle, Washington, and now lives and works in Los Angeles.

Did you know?

As a child, Peterson was frequently hospitalised due to asthma. He would pass the time by drawing which fueled his passion for art. These experiences introduced him to heavy topics which still inform his practice today. Namely, mortality and anger.

Collections

Peterson’s work is collected by a wide range of collectors – from art world staples like Jeffrey Deitch to celebrities like Usher.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

Cleon Peterson depicts never-ending battles as social commentary. Hulky warriors fight against blank backdrops and sometimes sprawl across city streets. Painted in acrylic, the colour palette is dramatic – made up mostly of black, white, yellow and red. Imagery is bold, crisp and hard-edged. This style draws from a range of influences. In particular Ancient Greek vases and the artist's past-profession as a graphic designer. The works also include references which symbolise the horrors of humanity. Namely, facist WWII propaganda posters. By nodding to their high contrast hues and stark shapes, he subverts their histories. A critique of their terrorising images.

The artist channels anger into his work. This is both a personal and political gesture. By focusing on fights, he presents violence as fundamental to society. All sorts of violence. Authoritarian governments, social inequality, war, protest, revolution... The artist acknowledges that his work can be controversial. But he is keen to use shock to encourage conversation. “Even if they’re having a gut reaction and they hate the work, at least they’re feeling something.” Both activist and provocateur, Peterson refuses to sit by and ignore the world around him. Instead, he confronts it with paintbrush in hand.

“There’s some fucked up shit out there, and it’s better to talk about it and confront it than to ignore it.”Cleon Peterson