The large storefront space at 116 Suffolk Street was mostly brimming with millennials on the eve of Thursday February 20th, 2014. You might not have expected that the young and hip L.E.S crowd was there to pay homage to Peter Passuntino, an artist who has been an integral part of New York City’s avant-garde art scene since the Fifties. Passuntino’s pop-up solo exhibition was called “Explosive Color” and was on view from February 20th to February 25th 2014, in a beautifully large space courteously hosted by film production company Spreadhouse.
Passuntino’s paintings depict a world where the underlying origins of nature is investigated through the language of figurative surreal and expressionist painting. Another characterization of Passuntino’s expressive figurative painting is his focus on vibrant color to create a strong dynamic composition. His painting has panache for social and political reform, with the ideology that through art these concerns can be uplifting.
Through painting, Passuntino creates a context to express his individuality while accounting for the collective conscious of contemporary society. His concern for art to exist as a socially transcendent language within humanity has been documented in over six decades of art making. Most of those years have been dedicated to the mode of Figurative Expressionism, a parallel modernist movement from Abstract Expressionism that is involved with depicting the figure in fantastical and subconscious imagination. This style often promotes ideas that in light of the ever-changing American culture, art should be true to life as it is actually experienced.
Among twenty distinct works from this exhibition was a monumental painting measuring 21 x 11 feet on what was formally an old Chinatown billboard that he found on the roof of his studio. Passuntino made this painting in about one week:
Like the figures walking the tightropes high atop the surreal landscape (a common motif in the much of the artist’s oeuvre), Passuntino has skillfully balanced the ideology that art and life are synonymous to each other.