Aptly sited in the naturally lit galleries of Dia:Beacon, Times of the Day (1974–76) is a seminal series in the oeuvre of Blinky Palermo, yet one that is rarely seen
in its entirety. Conceived by the artist after his relocation to New York City
from Düsseldorf in 1973, Times of the Day comprises six four-part works, and originates Palermo’s serialized, multipart Metal Pictures (or Metallbilder, in German), the last body of work in his short, yet pronounced, career.
The Metal Pictures series, which also includes the renowned To the People of New York City (1976), was a departure from the site-specific wall pieces and paintings, as well as the Objects and Cloth Pictures (Stoffbilder), that comprised Palermo’s practice from 1964 to 1973. Featured in the fore gallery leading into Times of the Day, Palermo’s Winkel Rot-Weiß (Angle Red-White, 1965) is a significant example of his early experimentation with spatial relationships of form and color. In Winkel Rot-Weiß, Palermo uses wood stretcher bars as a sculptural vehicle for painted surfaces. Altering the shape of the conventional canvas and moving the painting surface to its margins, this “pictorial object” addresses the possibility of painting while remaining at the verge of three- dimensionality.
For Times of the Day, Palermo composed and sketched the six sequences on paper before executing the contrasting pairs of horizontal bands with acrylic paint on thin aluminum panels. This specific application continued his intense inquiry into the display of color on alternative surfaces. On each panel, Palermo layered several coats of different colors to create dense surfaces of varying hues. Each work may be read from left to right across the wall, from light to dark panels, a development that alludes to a day’s progression from sunrise to noon and from sunset to dusk. However, an effect of simultaneity, even dialogue, seems unavoidable when contemplating the installation in its entirety.
Speaking on the Metal Pictures, Palermo shared: “The finished work usually consists of a sequence of colors or tones which I was unable to invent or envisage when I started it.” Thus Times of the Day’s twenty-four individual panels intrinsically embody a horizon of chromatic invention. The sense of succession is articulated in the space between each panel, generating resting spaces for the eye that repeat throughout the room. Each panel is also minimally projected from the wall by hidden fasteners, lifting the color off the wall and suspending it in space.
With the Metal Pictures, Palermo decisively turned his focus away from the production of singular works that had occupied him in the preceding years. As evidenced in Times of the Day, he began, instead, to compose serialized groups of paintings on metal, using color and formal patterns to focus on a specific experience of perception. On the one hand, Times of the Day’s clean, demarcated bands of color read as striking, didactic signs. Yet, unlike the porosity of canvas, the smooth metal plates provide a flat surface that allows the brush to reveal slight striations and irregularities. This slightest facture attests to the manual activity of painting and lends the work a warmth and personal affect. The Metal Pictures succeeded in broadening the parameters of his painting, for as Palermo once suggested: “If I were to work with canvas and stretcher, the whole image of the pictures would be a completely different one.”