"Denis Peterson earned a Painting MFA at Pratt Institute where he was awarded a prestigious Teaching Fellowship. He taught lifesize figure drawing at Pratt and exhibited his early New Realist paintings in New York City while restoring 16th and 17th Century Flemish museum pieces. Among the earliest Photorealist painters to emerge in New York, Peterson displayed groundbreaking airbrushed figurative paintings he aptly named Soft Focus Realism in a premier Photorealist exhibition celebrated at the preeminent Brooklyn Museum."
"Peterson later pioneered a splinter movement of Photorealism that had idealized and fetishized icons of contemporary culture in detached, and at times, banal frameworks. Abandoning its traditional aesthetic conventions, he named his newly formed painting genre Hyperrealism, accentuating commodification of cultures in alternate realities."
"It is not only hierarchy of the arts that this artist intends to upset, but real social paradigms. These socially conscious paintings are products of an extraordinary labor of compassion - his work centers on the indefatigable human spirit. A radical painter, Peterson's compelling virtuosity addresses the timeless human condition with precision and dignity."
"Painters like Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack and Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs. Peterson's work conveys a sense of inwardness and refective self-consciousness, differs from the idealising, more deadpan aspect of figures in Photorealism who appear either fetishistic or as mere individuals in the urban scene. They are simply deserving of having their likenesses recorded as any famous persons, and more importantly, of having their humanity recognized."
"It was no longer enough to just secure the painting as a realist object i.e., mundane objectified themes, banal subjects, or staged settings. Each series of works was a visual excursion through a range of societal norms incorporating an existential frame of reference as an alternate reality: the human condition. Compelling images confronted the ordered and the disordered, the connected and the unconnected. As a counter culture school of painting, my visual statements (albeit provocative) challenged our comfortable sensibilities of reality, verisimilitude, perception and illusion." --Peterson
PUBLICATION SOURCES: Art: The Whole Story Thames & Hudson Publishers 40,000 Years of Creativity Rizzoli Publishing Denis Peterson Wikipedia Artists of Photorealism Art Story 20th Century American Culture Edinburgh Press Paris/Brussels Auctions Pierre Bergé Associés Photorealism National Galleries Scotland Fascination with Reality – Hyperrealism Museum of Modern Art CZ Hyperrealism Catalog
"Denis is an artist who has chosen to use his art as a humanitarian effort to change the world, as seen in his stunning paintings on genocide." BRENDA BLOCKMAN • WOR TV
"Peterson's photorealistic works are visually compelling; bearing witness to grotesque mistreatment of people by governments, societies, and systemic classism." JOHN BATHKE • CABLE NEWS 12
"To witness genocide (Don't Shed No Tears) is to feel not only the chill of your own mortality, but the degradation of all humanity. Even the most brilliant photography cannot capture the landscape of genocide." FERGAL KEANE • BBC TV
"Peterson worked to expose totalitarian regimes, portraying corruption and oppression. His themes have been universally defined." MARYAM ADEL, EDITOR • AL JAZEERA
"They are the images of everyday life, snapshots of a busy, sometimes lonely, existence. Only a handful of artists can achieve this result." DENHAM HITCHCOCK • MSN TV AUSTRALIAN NEWS
"Painters Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack and Chuck Close worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs." MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
"The incredible realism of life on the streets in Denis Peterson's hyperreal paintings (literally) bewilders viewers." BUTLER INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN ARTS
"Hyperrealist painters Chuck Close, Charles Bell, and Denis Peterson produced canvasses indistinguishable from millions of images that had become the driving force of Western capitalism." MOSCOW MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
"Peterson portrays anonymous ordinary people caught in contemporary conflicts, neither glorifying nor heroising them. They are simply as deserving of having their likeness recorded as any famous or ‘important’ person, and more importantly, deserve simply to have their humanity recognized." CZ MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
"Major exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum have showcased the works of contemporary artists Chuck Close, Denis Peterson and Ron Mueck." BROOKLYN MUSEUM
"Denis, Thank you very much for your collaboration..." DIRECTOR • EUROPEAN MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
"Photography assimilated into the art world with the success of painters Estes, Peterson, Flack and Close. Peterson's photorealist painting began in the late 1960s and early 1970s." TATE MODERN
"Peterson's work exemplifies cityscape photorealism at its best. Precision, color and exactitude extraordinarily rich in technique and composition." CORCORAN MUSEUM • MCLEAN PROJECT
"Photorealism emerged alongside Conceptual Art, Pop Art and Minimalism. Prominent photorealists who emerged during this time were Chuck Close, Audrey Flack, Denis Peterson and Malcolm Morley. While they shared many stylistic tendencies, they were not a cohesive group." NATIONAL GALLERIES OF SCOTLAND
"Denis Peterson initially emerged as a Photorealist painter. He would soon become widely acknowledged as the primary architect of Hyperrealism. His meticulously detailed New York scenes showcase a range in subject matter, from the the city's bright billboards to it colorful residents." MODERN MET
"There is no denying the high level of technical prowess required for this unique creative process. Masters of the genre like Chuck Close, Bert Monroy, Denis Peterson and others, are praised for their skill and ability to transform their vision into an astounding piece of art." ART MIAMI MAGAZINE
"Emotional empathy with his subjects distinguishes Peterson’s work from the cooler response of Photorealists. Foregrounding figures combined with softer focus of their environment and extreme attention to physiognomic expression convey a sense of inwardness and reflective self-consciousness." DR. KENNETH HAY - CHAIR • CONTEMPORARY ART, LEEDS UNIVERSITY
"In Dust to Dust, Peterson asserts a man of negligible social status who inhabits the lowest stratum of in society is just as deserving of having his humanity recognized." FROM CAVE PAINTING TO STREET ART • RIZZOLI PUBLISHING
"Peterson brought unacknowledged subjects to the gallery, but his works are arresting, forcing viewers to confront genocide, homelessness and totalitarianism." COLTON VALENTINE • HUFFINGTON POST
"Peterson leaves onlookers impressed with his real life scenes - but gobsmacked when they realised every inch is painted." EUROPEAN UNION TIMES
"Through <!his> Denis' work, it is not only the hierarchy of arts that the artist intends to upset, but real social paradigms." PIERRE BERGÉ & ASSOCIÉS
"The fundamental component in Peterson's dynamic work is not necessarily the subject, but man's proximity to it. Denis' paintings address the banality of the human condition, whether it be the streets of New York or the fields of Darfur." THOMAS PAUL FINE ARTS
"Peterson is known for his fine draftsmanship and is technically more advanced than prior Photorealists. He sought such heightened believability to further push social issues into the art world, similar to sculptor Duane Hanson." THE ART STORY, IMPORTANT ART AND ARTISTS OF PHOTOREALISM
"Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack, Richard Estes and Chuck Close worked from photographic stills to create paintings. The hyperrealist genre (however) is clearly more than an attempt to replicate a photograph." AMERICAN CULTURE IN THE 2OTH CENTURY • EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS
"Denis Peterson distinguished Hyperrealism from Photorealism making meticulous changes in order to emphasize a socially conscious message about contemporary culture." ART THE WHOLE STORY • THAMES AND HUDSON PUBLISHING
"Denis Peterson is widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the Hyperrealism movement. Rendered with magnificent photographic precision, Peterson’s paintings bring the chaos of the street into clear focus, capturing tiny occurrences that would otherwise go unnoticed." PLUS ONE GALLERY
"The first Photorealists were Chuck Close, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Ralph Goings, Robert Bechtle, Audrey Flack, and Denis Peterson. Each began practicing some form of Photorealism around the same time, often utilizing different modes of application and techniques, and citing different inspirations for their work." THE ART STORY • MODERN ART INSIGHT
"Denis, I find your work most impressive! You are really a master of the airbrush technique." RALPH GOINGS • PHOTOREALIST PAINTER
"Peterson’s Hyperrealist paintings are visual statements peppered with underlying socio-economic paradigms. It becomes immediately apparent that techniques and methods are a product of his work, not the other way around." GEOF HUTH • USA TODAY
"This instance of Hyperrealism is a performance art. Peterson isn't showing off; he is a radical painter, compelling us with his dedication." ARI SILETZ • A BRUSH STROKE FOR EVERY HUMAN SUFFERING
"His latest series is a showcase for how far he can take his abilities: he is, really, an Olympic-level athlete of painting. I've seen a lot of fantastic painters in my time, academically trained and otherwise, but Denis is in a class by himself." C. RYWALT • NYC ART
"Denis Peterson’s work is soulful and gorgeous. He depicts humanity and dignity inherent to the human experience." BEN THOMPSON • EMPTY KINGDOM
"He is the Michael Phelps of painting. The results of all this technique and choice of subject are technical marvels and entertaining documentaries." URBAN PERSPECTIVES
"Peterson imbues something of himself into the work - which is why his images succeed where his contemporaries do not. Devoid of any human presence, his locations are ripe for ghosts, the atmosphere heavy with unassuaged yearning." RIK RAWLING • KEEP IT HYPERREAL
"Peterson's work addresses a sense of loss, pain/angst in a culture dominated by corporate America. People are viewed (once again) as individuals, though caught in the overwhelming commodification of everything, some so completely lost, that they are no longer individuals." J. BITTINGER KLOMP • METAMODERNIST/HYPERREALIST ART
"Western artists such as David, da Vinci and Denis Peterson are important in part because of their skill and innovation, but also because they come from cultures that dominate the modern global power scene. Peterson provokes America to intervene with her wealth." A BRUSHSTROKE FOR EVERY HUMAN SUFFERING
"Peterson's paintings have a timeless symbolic meaning, rather than the mere appearance of a photo, breaking from the structures of <!-photography->photorealism as an acceptable simulation of reality and instead creating a sense of personalization and interaction." JOSHUA ROSE • AMERICAN ART COLLECTOR
"All of Peterson's works are well-made, capture attention at the surface level and provoke immediate admiration of technique. His makes them visual arguments that can be lived with." CARLETON PALMER • NY EXAMINER
"Peterson lives with images so intensely (mega realism) they become familiar, internal, alive, and emotional." C. ASHLEY • LOOK SEE
"In creating these painstaking, handmade works, Mr. Peterson is working in an artistic tradition that goes as far back as the Renaissance. The results speak for themselves. His timeless compositions lead the pack in hyperrealism painting." CANADA GLOBE AND MAIL
"Peterson's semiotic paintings are more deliberate polymorphic illusions of reality and considerably less monolithic than traditional Photorealism. These works invite wonder both for their high standard of craftsmanship and the individual vision of the artist." ART AND ANTIQUES MAGAZINE
"As metaphors that tell our current society's story, these images expose the doubt and vulnerability that many in this nation feel. but they also bring a sense of humanity that can unite us and help us feel the burdens borne by our fellow citizens." ART REFLECTS TRUTH • DESERET NEWS
"Peterson's Hyperrealism incorporates POP culture in an existential frame of reference. Phantasmagorical, these optically convincing images are their own simulacra. These altered realities challenge verisimilitude, perception and illusion." ILLUSTRATO MAGAZINE
"At first glance some of his works look like a simple billboard over a busy urban setting. But on closer inspection, the hidden secret is revealed - people and obscure reflections on background windows have been conjured up by his brushstrokes." UK DAILY MAIL
"This may look like a photograph of NYC... but it is actually a painting by hyperrealist Denis Peterson." UK TELEGRAPH
"Whereas the camera does this mindlessly as a matter of optics, this artist has endured whatever it took to make sure human eyes do not respond as mindlessly. We can flip the page on a Newsweek photo, worth a click of the camera, but we can’t as easily turn away from such an extraordinary labor of compassion." ARI SILETZ • THE MULLAH WITH NO LEGS
"Very beautiful and so exquisitely crafted I initially took them for photographs. Peterson's work is serious, sophisticated, politically and morally engaged." ROBERT AYERS • ART INFO
"Gottfried Helnwein, Denis Peterson, and Craig Wylie are all Hyperrealist artists who use their work to send an unapologetic social message. These artists aggressively and unapologetically confront the human condition with their hyperrealist narrative which serves as a commentary on social and political issues." PLUS ONE GALLERY • LONDON
"Peterson's images go beyond, past, refer back to photo realism, mega realism and photography... they are a connection to Social Realism. They put a face to their own dogma, showing individuals caught in the social/political/cultural juggernaut." METAMODERNIST/HYPERREALIST ART
"He pioneered a splinter movement in Photorealism he called Hyperrealism, now a widely acknowledged school of art with<!-a--> significant international following." ART ODYSSEY
"Using only his brush, Denis manages to capture how hard it can be to make it in America. His paintings deftly illustrate the gap between the wealthy and poor of American society." MICHAEL HINES • TREND HUNTER ART & DESIGN
"Peterson, whose pioneering works are universally viewed as an offshoot of Photorealism, first used Hyperrealism to apply to the new movement and its splinter group of artists." WIKIPEDIA
"Whether figurative or city scenes, his iconic paintings achieve a heightened awareness of the innumerous plights that have impact on human dignity in today’s decadent societies and in tomorrow’s world." BRIAN MURPHY • MAKE THE PAINT SCREAM
This casual conversation during a dinner meeting with a prominent gallerist at Le Bernardin in NYC regarding The Wall LA painting exhibition led to gallery representation.
When did you start painting?
At the age of four, I would sit in my grandfather's painting studio and he would take a piece of paper; crumple it up and hold it to the light while turning it. He would ask me what I saw as it cast a moving shadow on the drawing paper he had laid out before me. Then he would challenge me to draw and paint what I saw...an imagined face, hand, bird, etc.
So, you would draw these objects all the time?
No, each time I saw something different. It helped me develop my imagination and creativity at a very early age...my introduction to hyperrealism before its time!
Why was he so interested in you learning drawing and painting?
I guess he saw my creative nature and desired to pass on his incredible talent and expertise in art. He restored works by Rembrandt and other renown painters for the Metropolitan Museum. He taught me the art of restoration whereby restoring Renaissance paintings carried me over during and after my post-military college years. He was a young atelier painter in France where leading Impressionist painters i.e. Monet were among his colleagues. While watching me paint, he would cite stories about them and how they openly disparaged the norms and espoused "no rules in art".
They were true explorers of artistic revolution, always willing to experiment in genre, subject and technique. Therefore, I was always encouraged to find new ways to express myself in art as well as to uncover novel out-of-the-box solutions for problems indigenous in every medium. All the visual restrictions i.e., the rule of thirds, aerial perspective, sources of light, depth of field etc. were worth breaking through as well.
Is the social dynamic or the aesthetic of more importance?
They are inseverable. If the piece cannot stand on its own merits as a work of art, if it doesn't lend itself to further art history even in one small step, if it has already been done; then either I don't do it or the doomed underpainting falls onto the growing scrap heap of discarded canvasses in my already cramped studio. All my work imparts sociological implications which I have personally explored and wish to convey unexpurgated to the viewer, regardless of the viewer's preconceptions.
So that is why you developed hyperrealism and named it a school of art?
I didnt develop it. Although at first, I did think so. It wasn't until I was painting hyperreal works for a few years that I found other hyperrealists around the world. Perhaps in this country there were none among the working photorealists attempting hyperrealism as a breakaway from photorealism in any case.
So in that sense, I may have had something to do with promoting a new way of looking at what I, or some of us, were doing. Some were closer to social surrealism, others narrative realism and so on. But hypererealism has room for as many artists and individual offshoots as any other legitimate school of art.
But you named it a school of art?
Yes, while studying the existential works of Jean Baudrillard who had popularized the term hyperreal. I was floored the first time I read him. It was if I had been living this approach in my paintings but never had the means to express it anywhere as succinctly as he did. I had grown tired of photorealist work as to its banality and unflinching position against any meaningful narrative in art. As a photorealist, it seemed logical to adapt the ideology to my individual painting style, hence the term hyperrealism painting was born. I began to incorporate both the name hyperrealism and its derivative philosophy into my photorealist paintings. Sadly, Baudrillard died the following year.
His philosophy of alternate realities and simulated images were in part based upon semiotics, a body of esoteric work compiled by Charles Sanders Pierce and based on his own studies of Kant, another favorite of mine. He wrote about representation versus conscious experience, visual stimulations as signs, and interpretation of signs as icons; all of which I readily identified with.
And that labyrinth of mirrors is no small difference. (continue to PART 2)