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7920 Santa Monica Boulevard
Central LA, CA, 90046
United States


Cleon Peterson




Cleon Peterson’s shadowy figures mete out violence in images that could just as well depict justice as they do barbarity. Peterson’s work can be viewed as both a continuation and a progression of  past works, in which graphically rendered scenes of sadism portray chaos as the inevitable order of things. Many of those scenes have featured characters with physical appearances largely undifferentiated from one another, suggesting a classless unsympathetic society, yet in this new body of work Peterson incorporates “shadow” figures and a new dichotomous order. There are haves and have-nots, but amid the havoc it’s hard to decide who’s who.

One thing that remains clear throughout Peterson’s work is the incongruity of insensate cruelty and acute suffering. Though their acts are purely savage, the “shadows” hardly show signs of malignancy in their reductive facial features. Their motions are calculated, their postures balanced, athletic and mechanical. Their victims, by contrast, appear defenseless and in shock, often wearing expressions of horror reminiscent of the targets in Goya’s painting The Third of May 1808. They are not, however, powerless in all senses, if the backdrops of topiaries and foyers suggest anything. Ultimately, it’s up to the viewer to take sides and feel sympathy or schadenfreude, indignation or catharsis.