Lamar Peterson: Suburbia Sublime

Burton & Judy Onofrio Main Gallery

Opening Reception & Artist Talk: Saturday, June 7  |  6 pm

Gallery walk throughs with Shannon Fitzgerald:
Thursday, August 14 at 12 noon  |  Thursday, September 11 at 5:30 pm

Rochester Art Center presents Lamar Peterson: Suburbia Sublime, the first survey exhibition of his work that includes painting, collage, drawing, and a newly commissioned outdoor sculpture.  For over a decade, Peterson lived and worked in Brooklyn and relocated to Minneapolis in 2011.  This exhibition is a comprehensive overview of the artist’s career since he completed graduate school in 2001 and considers the vibrant painted images that poignantly examine American middle-class culture through a re-contextualization of both historical and contemporary racial stereotypes.  With adroit handling of ink, gouache, acrylic, and oil paint, a distinctive color palette combined with surface treatment ranging from the super flat and hard edge to expressive and loose brush, Peterson confronts black expression, iconic and non-iconic representation of American masculinity, and the incongruity of all.

Mining imagery from popular culture, science fiction, landscape painting, art history, and comic books, Peterson creates candy-colored, fantasy-filled narratives that are immediately inviting and playful. His cast of whimsical human and non-human characters, adorable pets, aliens, machines, and amusing props interact within magical bucolic settings, calm oceanfront’s,  majestic mountain ranges, and outerspace. Ideas about family and relationships are core to his representational narrative. Exploring the male experience, Peterson evokes notions of joy and antagonism as well as reality and absurdity in surreal and humorous renderings. Not immediately apparent is a masterful use of the sublime; as the journey seeking the American dream unfolds, so too does conflict, difference, alienation, and fear.  Peterson’s vignettes, portraits, window views onto the world, and often bizarre juxtapositions share beauty and contradiction through themes of love, family, and desire. Peterson constructs a hard-edged tension between delight and danger that approaches the absurd as he diverts pleasure in compositions that seem to taunt innocence, mock rationale, and ultimately explore humanity with a jovial punch.  

Rochester Art Center is publishing a catalog for the exhibition that will include a new curatorial essay by Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Rochester Art Center, and a conversation between Lamar Peterson and Franklin Sirmans, Curator and Head of the Department of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Lamar Peterson is Assistant Professor of Drawing & Painting, Department of Art, University of Minnesota.

Lamar Peterson: Suburbia Sublime exhibition and catalog are supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Cultural Community Partnership (MSAB), Mayo Clinic, the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation, and Fredericks & Freiser, New York.

Organized by Rochester Art Center and curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director.

Rochester Art Center, in partnership with Lamar Peterson, is a fiscal year 2014 recipient of a Cultural Community Partnership grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, and by a grant from theNational Endowment for the Arts.

Cover image: Lamar Peterson, Yellow Brick Road, 2013, oil on canvas, 73 x 59 inches.  Courtesy of the artist and Fredericks & Freiser, New York.