PETER SCHUYFF

Untitled, 1987

Included in the exhibition: Echoes of Laocoön

“Peter Schuyff’s new paintings are some of the best seen in New York this year. At the moment, despite the unsavoury excellence of Philip Taaffe and Peter Halley, it is not too bold to say that Schuyff is the best young abstract painter in town.”

– Walter Robinson, Art in America, 1986

Shortly after moving to New York from Canada in the early 1980s, Peter Schuyff found himself at the center of the flourishing art scene. He lived in the historic Chelsea Hotel alongside many of the Factory regulars, worked at the legendary Studio 54 and had his portrait painted by Andy Warhol. His career took off as rapidly as his social life, with an early exhibition at the critically acclaimed gallery space White Columns (1982). Not much later he was picked up by Pat Hearn, who was considered to be the most influential young gallerist in New York (and whom along with her husband Colin de Land founded the Armory Show). 

Peter Schuyff - Untitled (1987) painting from Pat Hearn at ILEANA Contemporary Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia

PETER SCHUYFF

Untitled, 1987
acrylic on canvas
36 by 36 cm.

Exhibited
Pat Hearn Gallery, New York, Peter Schuyff, 1987

Provenance
Pat Hearn Gallery, New York
Private Collection, United States

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Together with fellow artists Peter Halley and Philip Taaffe, who were known under the label Neo Geo, Peter Schuyff’s paintings offered an abstract response to the predominantly figurative painting of the 1980s by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat. The Neo Geo label was only a loose one since it also included the divergent practices of Jeff Koons and Haim Steinbach, but what these artists had in common was an interest in the surface aesthetics of a new consumer culture. After Andy Warhol had promoted everyday objects to the realm of fine art, this younger generation became fixated with the shiny exteriors of products as they were displayed in advertisements. Jeff Koons and Haim Steinbach appropriated household consumer goods in their sculptures, Peter Halley used bright fluorescent colours in his abstract paintings, and Peter Schuyff became known for his mesmerising light effects. Prominent art critic Walter Robinson in fact described Schuyff’s paintings as “shiny things such as might attract a magpie.’’

“The obsessive manner in which [Schuyff] pursues the illuminated canvas evokes association to both history and the heroes of illumination. As one of its pleasures, Schuyff’s work is the vivid evidence of an artist infatuated with the romantic tradition of painting.

– Neil Campbell

Peter Schuyff, Untitled (1986) painting owned by Andy Warhol at ILEANA Contemporary Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia

Peter Schuyff, Untitled, 1986, acrylic on canvas,127.6 by 127 cm. Formerly in the collection of Andy Warhol.

The illusionistic light effects in Schuyff’s paintings, which often appear to have been lit with spotlights, are the result of a highly layered technique. The artist would often use up to fifty layers of thinly applied acrylic that created subtle colour gradients, giving the work the illusion of being lit by an external light source. Schuyff’s geometric green and yellow grids, which also resemble the pattern of a table cloth, were particularly successful at this – and Andy Warhol, who collected Schuyff’s work, owned a larger version of this painting.

Peter Schuyff in his New York studio at ILEANA Contemporary Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia

Peter Schuyff in his studio (from Vogue Italia, 1987)

These early paintings by Peter Schuyff are contradictory on many levels: Pop Art had never ventured into geometric minimalism, and minimalism had never looked so Pop-like. But also, minimalism had never been so painterly, and gestural painting never so geometric. Schuyff’s paintings went against many of the established paradigms of painting, and combined positions that would previously have been considered antithetical. At a time when the very possibility of painting was hotly debated (and the medium once again declared dead), the artist demonstrated that there were still relevant paintings to be made.

“Even though he was often associated with geometric abstraction, pop surrealism, conceptual abstraction, Neogeometric conceptualism, or appropriation, none of these labels could adequately capture a body of work that passed through all of these movements in a coherent yet contradictory way.’ 

– Balthazar Lovay

Peter Schuyff at Leo Castelli New York at ILEANA Contemporary Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia

Installation view from Peter Schuyff at Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (October – November 1987)

Born in the Netherlands in 1958, Peter Schuyff spent his childhood in Vancouver, where he also attended art school before moving to New York in in the early 1980s. He exhibited with many of the most influential galleries at the time, including Pat Hearn Galllery in New York, Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, Akira Ikeda in Japan, Lucio Amelio in Napels,  Paul Maenz in Cologne, Leo Castelli, Sperone Westwater, Paul Kasmin, Tony Shafrazi and Mary Boone in New York. In 2017 Le Consortium in Dijon organised a retrospective of Schuyff’s 1980s paintings, which were also featured in his White Cube exhibition in London in 2020. The artist’s work is collected by the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, the Hall Collection in Vermont, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, amongst others.

Selected solo exhibitions
2020 White Cube, London
2020 Half Gallery, New York
2018 Carl Kostyal, London
2017 Le Consortium, Dijon
2015 Mary Boone, New York
2014 Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels
2007 Nicole Klagsbrun, New York
1996 Tony Shafrazi, New York/
1994 Paul Kasmin, New York
1992 Sperone Westwater, New York
1991 Sperone Gallery, Rome
1988 Paul Maenz, Cologne
1987 Castelli Gallery, New York
1987 Lucio Amelio, Napels
1985 Akira Ikeda, Nagoya
1985 Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
1984 Pat Hearn Gallery, New York
1982 White Columns, New York

Selected collections
Broad Museum, Los Angeles
Brooklyn Museum, New York
Dakis Joannou Collection, Greece
Fischer Landau Collection, New York
Hall Art Foundation, Vermont
Magasin III, Stockholm
Metropolitan Museum, New York 
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Mumok, Vienna
Plains Art Museum, North Dakota
Portland Art Museum, Portland
RISD Museum, Rhode Island
Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas

View full list on the artist’s website