Cleon Peterson 'POISON' at Library Street Collective

Detroit-based contemporary art gallery, Library Street Collective, is pleased to announce “POISON” a solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist, Cleon Peterson. The Cranbrook Academy of Art alumnus, globally recognized for his graphic monochromatic works depicting merciless violence, will, for the first time, bring his mayhem-filled narratives to Detroit. The show features a collection of over twenty acrylic-on-canvas pieces as well as porcelain sculptures.

“This show is about revenge, which is a current of poison running through our culture and other cultures around the world,” Peterson says. “It’s often a motivation for war and justification for punishment; it’s a social impulse that is destructive and easy to become complicit in.” While his characters have uncivilized, archaic forms, the concepts behind the artist’s portrayals are backed by Peterson’s historic and contemporary social commentary. “Everything I do is a reaction to the world we live in,” Peterson says. “I’m always thinking about what’s going on inside and outside of our country, between race, power and religion. I think there are huge problems in the world that have been going on forever and people have good reasons to be angry and seek change.”
Unbridled by the parameters surrounding the need to create safe, pleasant, even colorful art, Peterson uses his signature limited palette to convey emotion and continues to push boundaries with “black and white” imagery in both a literal and figurative sense. The natural canvas next to the deep black paint creates a lush surface and stark contrast. All of the “Poison” canvas works are aesthetically flat and clean yet blatantly evoke depth and disorder in a way that may be uncomfortable for those who shy away from the raw and dark realities of mankind. “I don’t let my own personal fear dictate what I express artistically,” Peterson says. “I try to move beyond that and become a conduit for real and honest thoughts.” As for the sculptures, Peterson considers them to be an extension of his paintings dimensionally, a way for his drawings to live in a space we live in.

No stranger to his own history of anguish and darkness, Peterson’s troubled past offers perspective and validity for his life as a working artist. Having had an unusual upbringing, straddling the fence between addiction and sobriety, serving jail time, bouncing to and from psych wards and rehab centers, Peterson, now a husband and father of three has endured and emerged from the darkest of days. “I’m sure the work would be different had I lived another life,” the artist says. “I’ve always searched for meaning in what I do and I think that finding meaning in one’s life comes upon examination. Not only examining my own personal history but also the position I take in the world and my perspective on social and global events as they unfold.”

Cleon Peterson's "POISON" exhibition will be on view at Library Street Collective (1260 Library Street, Detroit) from August 29th - October 15th, 2015. For more information, visit or e-mail for an exhibition catalog.

Cleon Peterson
Cleon Peterson was born in Seattle, Washington in 1973. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
2006 MFA The Cranbrook Academy of Art, Detroit, MI
2004 BFA Graphic Design, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA
Library Street Collective
Library Street Collective specializes in cutting edge modern and contemporary fine art with a primary focus on artists who have developed their skills and visual art in public spaces. Our mission is to share what we believe to be some of the most important and inspiring art today. Located in the heart of downtown Detroit, Library Street Collective continues to cultivate a culture of exploration and art appreciation. In addition to exhibiting the works of countless international artists in its Detroit gallery and abroad, Library Street Collective has curated numerous public art initiatives many of which can be found in the city of Detroit.