Denis Peterson is widely recognized as the leading architect of a spinter art movement, Hyperrealism, with its roots in an older painting genre, Photorealism, which idealized and fetishized icons of contemporary culture in a detached and banal framework. Abandoning its traditional conventions, he illuminated the commodification of alternate realities found within that same contemporary culture: mass consumerism, systemic classism and societal decadence.
Peterson has utilized Hyperrealism as a phenomenological vehicle for social change whereby his work has shown in museums worldwide. A radical painter, his compelling virtuosity addresses the timeless human condition with precision and dignity. He portrays anonymous ordinary people caught up in contemporary conflicts, neither glorifying nor heroising them.
Denis Peterson captures the harsh realities of the American dream. His work addresses a sense of loss, pain/angst concerning our position in a culture dominated by corporate America. These socially conscious paintings are the products of an extraordinary labor of compassion.
Denis Peterson received a Painting MFA and Teaching Fellowship at Pratt Institute where he taught figure drawing while restoring 16th and 17th century Flemish paintings for museums. Among the first Photorealists to emerge in New York, his paintings were exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, one of the premier art institutions in the world. His large airbrushed figurative works were distinguished by cropped images as a point of reference to photography.
Painters like Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack, and Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs. One demonstration of the way photography first became assimilated into the art world is the success of Photorealist painting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hyperrealism broke with its traditional conventions.
Art the Whole Story Thames & Hudson 40,000 Years of Creativity Rizzoli Publishing A Brush Stroke for Every Human Suffering Siletz Denis Peterson Wikipedia 20th C American Culture Edinburgh Univ Press, UK Hyperrealism Catalog Olomouc, MOMA Art & Artists Tate Modern, UK
"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
"The first Photorealists were Chuck Close, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Ralph Goings, Robert Bechtle, Audrey Flack, Denis Peterson, and Malcolm Morley. Each began practicing some form of Photorealism around the same time, often utilizing different modes of application and techniques independent from one another." THE ART STORY • MODERN ART INSIGHT
"Denis Peterson is an hyperrealist painter whose photorealist works have exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Whitney Museum, Butler Institute, Tate Modern, Springville Museum, Corcoran MPA and Max Hutchinson. He is widely acknowledged as the pioneer and primary architect of Hyperrealism." DENIS PETERSON ARTICLE • WIKIPEDIA
"The fundamental component in Denis Peterson's dynamic works is not necessarily the subject of the painting, but with 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
"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 PRACTICE • LEEDS UNIVERSITY
"Peterson portrays the anonymous, ordinary people caught up 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." OLOMOUC • MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
"Peterson is known for his fine draftsmanship and is technically more advanced than prior Photorealists. His techniques and effects illustrate that Photorealism, while based in the 1970s, continues on. He sought such heightened believability in order 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 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 to a work's depth of field, color and composition 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. His recent works encompass meticulously detailed New York cityscapes that explore the frenetic pace of the modern American metropolis. Rendered with precision, Peterson’s paintings bring the chaos of the street into clear focus." PLUS ONE GALLERY • NEW YORK THROUGH THE EYES OF DENIS PETERSON
"Denis Peterson's work focuses on persecution, human dispersion, genocide and the reality of refugees everywhere. Peterson worked to expose totalitarian regimes by portraying corruption and oppression. His themes are universally defined as drawing characters who face - with amazing inner calm - the horror surrounding them." MARYAM ADEL, EDITOR • AL JAZEERA
"One demonstration of the way photography became assimilated into the art world is the success of Photorealist painting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Painters like Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack, and Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs." TATE MODERN
"American Hyperrealist painters Chuck Close, Charles Bell, and Denis Peterson produced pictures on canvas that were indistinguishable from the millions of images that had become the driving force of Western late capitalism." CAA REVIEWS • HYPERREALISM: WHEN REALITY BECOMES AN ILLUSION
"Denis Peterson initially emerged as a photorealist painter. He would soon become widely acknowledged as a 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, that captures the spirit of the city." MODERN MET
"In his work, Peterson asserts a man of negligible social status who inhabits the lowest stratum of society is just as worthy of having his portrait painted as any titled individual or famous person and just as deserving of having his humanity recognized." FROM CAVE PAINTING TO STREET ART • RIZZOLI PUBLISHING
"Hyperrealism is a performance art. Viewers are deliberately made to notice the amazing amount of time and painstaking effort that went into portraying this. Peterson isn't showing off; he is a radical painter, compelling us with his dedication." ARI SILETZ • A BRUSH STROKE FOR EVERY HUMAN SUFFERING
"Denis Peterson is an artist who has chosen to use his hyperrealist art as a humanitarian effort to change the world, as seen in his stunning Darfur paintings on genocide." BRENDA BLOCKMAN • WOR TV
"Denis Peterson's latest series is a showcase for how far he can take his abilities: he is, really, an Olympic-level athlete of painting. Peterson is in a class all by himself. He is the Michael Phelps of painting, the Usain Bolt of airbrush and paintbrush. He makes Vermeer look like Jackson Pollock." C. RYWALT • NYC ART
"Somewhere during the process of painting, 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 concerning our position 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--John>
"Peterson's figurative images in compressed space and incorporeal landscapes of social decadence are visual commentaries on the aftermath of genocides, diasporas, and cultural divides." EVERIPEDIA • DENIS PETERSON - LIFE AND WORK
"Peterson's paintings have a timeless symbolic meaning rather than the mere appearance of a photo, breaking from the structures of photography as an acceptable simulation of reality and instead creating a sense of personalization and interaction." JOSHUA ROSE • AMERICAN ART COLLECTOR
"Living with artwork differs from briefly witnessing art on exhibition. All of Peterson's works are well-made, capture attention at the surface level, and provoke immediate admiration of technique. This makes them visual arguments that can be lived with while one works into the deeper levels of discourse." CARLETON PALMER • NY EXAMINER
"We collected 105 images from hyper-realism artists Bodin, Bernardi, Spence, de Latigue, Heinze and Peterson whose hyper-realism paintings are extremely finely drawn as viewed under microscope and are hard to distinguish from photographs with unaided eyes." US NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE • LARGE-SCALE QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS OF PAINTING ARTS
"Denis Peterson has brought unacknowledged subjects to the gallery, but his hyperreal works are arresting, forcing viewers to confront genocide, homelessness, and totalitarianism." COLTON VALENTINE • HUFFINGTON POST
"Perhaps one approach an artist might take is sheer commitment. One might make painted images that are so highly crafted, detailed, and labor intensive, that so earnestly suggest every pore and thread, that the message is simply, I believe, and I care. Look at this. It is important. Perhaps this is what Peterson has done." C. ASHLEY • LOOK SEE
"Peterson's semiotic paintings are more deliberate polymorphic illusions of reality and considerably less monolithic than those found in traditional photorealism. These works invite wonder both for their high standard of craftsmanship and the individual vision of the artist." ART AND ANTIQUES MAGAZINE
"These photorealistic works of Denis Peterson are visually compelling; often bearing witness to historical evidence of grotesque mistreatment of people by governments, societies, and systemic classism." JOHN BATHKE • CABLE NEWS 12
"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." TRAVELING MUSEUM EXHIBITION • ART REFLECTS TRUTH, DESERET NEWS
"Peterson's hyperrealism incorporates POP culture within an existential frame of reference. Phantasmagorical, these optically convincing images are their own simulacra: altered realities challenging 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
"Peterson’s hyperrealist paintings are visual statements peppered with underlying socio-economic paradigms. In viewing, it becomes immediately apparent that techniques and methods are a product of his work, not the other way around, the illusion of reality as a transformational aesthetic is a virtual means to an end." POETS AND ARTISTS MAGAZINE • USA TODAY COVER STORY
"These hyperrealistic works may look like photographs of New York City. The signs and buildings of New York City are fluid, ever-changing, and no snapshot could possibly capture more than a momentary portrait. But these are actually paintings done by the artist Denis Peterson." UK TELEGRAPH
"Whereas the camera does this mindlessly as a matter of optics, Denis Peterson 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 • AUTHOR OF THE MULLAH WITH NO LEGS
"His paintings are very beautiful and so exquisitely crafted I initially took them for photographs. Denis Peterson's work is serious, sophisticated, politically and morally engaged." ROBERT AYERS • ART INFO
"In his solo show, Denis Peterson's work exemplifies cityscape photorealism at its best. Precision, color and exactitude are extraordinarily rich in both technique and composition." CORCORAN MCLEAN PROJECT FOR THE ARTS
"The incredible realism in Denis Peterson's cityscapes of New York's downtown Time Square and of life on the streets depicted in his most recent hyperrealist paintings bewilders viewers." BUTLER INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN ARTS
"To witness genocide 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
"Helnwein, Peterson, and Wylie are hyperrealists who use their work to send a 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
"Major hyperrealism exhibitions have been held at the Brooklyn Museum which have showcased the many significant works of contemporary artists Chuck Close, Denis Peterson and Ron Mueck." BROOKLYN MUSEUM
"They are the images of everyday life, snapshots of a busy, sometimes lonely, existence. But there's a difference. The images are not photos, they are actually paintings! Only a handful of artists can achieve this result." DENHAM HITCHCOCK • MSN TV AUSTRALIAN NEWS
"Peterson has often utilized the hyperrealism painting style as a phenomenological vehicle for social change. In his work "Dust to Dust", Peterson asserts that a man of negligible social status who inhabits the lowest stratum of society is just as worthy of having his portrait painted as any titled individual or famous person." ALCHETRON ENCYCLOPEDIA
"Breaking with the formal conventions of traditional painting and its aesthetic limitations, he pioneered a splinter movement within Photorealism that he called Hyperrealism, now a widely acknowledged school of art with a significant international following." ART ODYSSEY
"Peterson captures the harsh realities of the American dream with his paintings. Using only his brush, he manages to capture how hard it can be to make it in America. Denis Peterson’s paintings deftly illustrate the gap between the wealthy and poor of American society." MICHAEL HINES • TREND HUNTER ART & DESIGN
"David, da Vinci and 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. Renaissance painters catered to emerging capitalism, sons in David’s painting symbolize French colonies, and Peterson provokes America to intervene." ARI SILETZ • A BRUSHSTROKE FOR EVERY HUMAN SUFFERING
"Early 21st century Hyperrealism was founded on the aesthetic principles of Photorealism. American painter Denis 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." HYPERREALISM ARTICLE • WIKIPEDIA
"Artist Denis Peterson leaves onlookers impressed with his real life scenes showing cities around the world - but gobsmacked when they realise every inch of these pictures are painted." EUROPEAN UNION TIMES
My Photorealist paintings in the late 1960s and early 1970s emerged as a new genre following two highly distinguished schools of art: Abstract Expressionism and POP Art. However, lifelike images were not actualized simply by meticulous duplication of all the details in a photograph.
The illusion was actually supported by subtle tonal changes and inter-relationships of abstract expressionist elements, without which my work would have lost much of its visceral energy. Airbrushing acrylic paints (new at the time) allowed for spontaneously blending colors directly on canvas through multiple glazes. Combining opaque and transparent applications achieved tonal articulation not otherwise achievable in compositional lighting or dimensional shading.
When teaching in college, I maintained high standards in representational art, be it drawing or painting. Many works can be beautifully detailed and tonally modelled; yet they can fall short of the mark when the visual statement lacks any compelling content or contemporary context.
In applying these same high standards to my own work over the years, my painting style evolved into a more advanced genre. I spontaneously termed it Hyperrealism based on my readings of philosopher Jean Baudrillard. Designating an appropriate descriptive name for a new genre was easily eclipsed by re-affirming a genuine state of hyper-reality in my work.
Consequently, it became clear that my visual observations were acutely aligned with Hyperrealism as an illusory backdrop to decadence, mass consumerism, targeted populations and the like. This fueled my work to accelerate into a range of disenfrachised subjects outside the norm and to break away from the aesthetic conventions and values of Photorealism.
A second generation painting genre, Hyperrealism is an evolutionary extension of Photorealism Some works by hyperrealist painters are polymorphic, adding a new dynamic to challenge viewer perceptions through altered illusions of reality and phantasmagorical visual statements.
However, illusion is secondary to content, a means to an end. My ultimate objective is to create timeless compositions that can mesmerise the viewer and evoke a core response. Hyperrealism is a counter-culture genre that secures alternate realities in an existential frame of reference: the human condition. From my perspective, it is no longer enough to secure paintings in mundane frames of reference: objectified themes, banal subjects, or staged settings.
My work instead incorporates aesthetic expression as an excursion into more substantive subjects. It is my deliberate intention to create evocative visual statements, and to that end, compositional integrity is given equivalent consideration to content, expression and meaning.
Humanity, and the expression of humanity in my work, are constructs that assimilate an illusory sense of reality with an oppositional realm of hyperreality. Several painting series called for close interaction with subjects, whereby acute sensitivity to culturally driven deprivation was paramount to effectively communicating human needs through a human lens.
At their core center, these hyperreal images at once articulate, question, and challenge our metrics of verisimilitude and illusion in their cultural subcontexts. In summary, my paintings are empirical compositions deliberately crafted as compelling visual statements that confront the ordered, the disordered, the connected, and the unconnected.