For this Los Angeles artist, the process of painting is highly physical, building up layers of color and then cutting away.
From a distance, David Allan Peter’s small-scale abstract paintings appear to buzz with dashes of vibrant color. These kaleidoscopic patterns may radiate over the entire panel in starburst formations, as in Untitled #13, or abutting triangles, as in Untitled #7, both made this year. But when seen up close, what look like Impressionistic brushstrokes reveal themselves to be tiny but precise indentations, carved into surfaces that have been built up with dozens of shimmering layers of acrylic paint.
David’s paintings appear topographic – they’re a psychedelic version of what you might imagine the surface of the moon to be,” says Amy Brandt, a curator at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virgina. “When you look at them form the side, the layers look like pages of a book. For me, these layers relate to art history. It’s like he’s deconstructing painting, tearing apart, and making it his own.”
Born in Cupertino, California, in 1969, Peters works in Los Angeles in a studio made up of four adjacent single-car garages, where he has set up a kind of production line. “It’s like a dance,” says Peters. In one narrow space, he applies thick, monochromatic layers of paint – drawing from a palette influenced by the vivid sunsets and gardens of the West Coast – to small wood panels set up on long tables. Each panel may ultimately get as many as 100 applications and the artist then sands it down to a hard finish in the space next door. While he waits for the layers to dry, Peters moves with a linocut knife, sometimes excising a single streak of sedimentary hues, other times digging all over in patterns that twinkle with bits of revealed color.
Once the paintings are finished, Peters makes tabletop sculptures from the leftovers. He molds the scooped-out pieces of pigment into multicolored bricks or assembles striped chunks of paint trimmed from the edges into crystal-like formations. “Each painting yields about four different objects,” says Peters. “Creating my supplies from parts of my own paintings has helped me find new places to go.”
Early on, Peters made pristine photo-realist paintings that he would distress with washes and various tools. “I’ve always made things and then sort of destroyed them,” he says. He became interested in the harmonies of color while studying at California’s Claremont Graduate University. For many years, he works as a preparator for galleries and museums, repainting and fixing holes in the walls after exhibitions were dismantled. The job informed his process of accrual and excavation, he says. “That’s how I look at the history – through the museum walls and layers of paint.”
Peters had his first major New York show at Ameringer McEnery Yohe gallery in 2013. In January, he will have an exhibition at Royale Projects in Palm Desert, California.
Peters finds tremendous joy in his method of working. “I paint these beautiful colors and keep stacking them on top of each other,” says the artist. It’s like hiding secrets. I have to find them again. I rediscover.”
Elle Décor, December 2014, p.63 and 64