This month, eleven paintings by David Allan Peters are on view in New York at Miles McEnery Gallery. The category of “painting” however, seems too restrictive for this unique process. Though each is technically made of paint, the mesmerizing visual effect is achieved by carving thousands of gouges into the thick surface that reveals an explosion of color layers.
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David Allan Peters has perfected a tedious process of addition and subtraction. He begins each work by applying up to 100 layers of acrylic paint – changing colors with every coat. After building up the surfaces over ½ inch (often more than that), he draws a geometric design on the surface and begins carving the paint within that pattern using a linocut knife. A bonus treat is viewing each of the paintings from the side to see the full stack of paint layers.
To see the process in full, check out this 2017 video of him in his Los Angeles studio.
Beyond revealing a collision of color, the cuts create a secondary physical pattern that would STILL be interesting if there was no color in these at all. For example, “Untitled #11” (above) is a starburst grid pattern, where “Untitled #15” (below) uses only horizontal marks within a concentric diamond pattern.
The variance and choice of color however, comes from the specific depth he chooses to carve.
The gallery and artist specifically point out the tool he uses: a “linocut knife”. It’s an intriguing thing to specifically mention. A linocut knife is a tool designed to remove material when creating a linoleum block “stamp” for printmaking. The tool is therefore used in printmaking as a sort of “eraser”. So in a way, Peters has reversed the function of that tool, using it to make color visible instead of invisible. He’s also created something that COULD be used as a “printmaking block” but it is so beautiful that it’s horrifying to consider that possibility. In short, he is using the material of painting with the methods of sculpture and the tools of printmaking, creating a work that isn’t just visually exciting, but conceptually brilliant.
I’ve visited the gallery about 6 times and keep changing my mind about which work is my “favorite”. Go see the exhibition if possible before it closes on July 6th.
My only advice is: If you think you don’t like one of them… just get closer.
Artwork and installation images: Courtesy of the artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY.
Details of work photographed by the author, David Behringer.