The faceless violence of Cleon Peterson | Arttecblog

Alexandre Ayotte


Upon viewing LA based artist Cleon Peterson’s work for the first time, one might be tempted to dismiss it as a mere reproduction of senseless brutality. However, there is much more to it than the first look can offer.

Indeed, the anonymity of violence in paintings such as In Nature is Dominance (below) is emphasized by the similar physiognomy of all characters. The only visual aspect that differentiates victim and aggressor is the use of colour, but since the dark characters hold white weapons, Peterson shows that the order of power can shift at any time. In that, the egalitarian status of all men is preserved, even through the physical domination of a certain group of human beings on another.

The universal and timeless aspects of violence are also prominent in Cleon Peterson’s visual work. Some paintings show primitive struggles, others depict an urban environment reduced to mayhem, but what the artist means to represent is how violence is an innate characteristic of human condition. He highlights how the hierarchy of society creates a dominator-dominated status for all humans, but also the frailty of this system through intertwining colour patterns.

As in pretty much every work of contemporary art, the first look does not give out the key to the complex world of the artist. The vulgar violence of Cleon Peterson’s wood panel paintings is then not only a visceral representation of repressed desires and traumas, but also a discourse on society and its domination patterns.


To learn more, visit or read the interview Cleon Peterson gave to Juxtapoz: