Peter Dayton: Anarchy in My Head

Peter Dayton

June 5 - August 29, 2014

Winston Wächter Fine Art, New York is pleased to present selected paintings, collage and sculpture by New York artist Peter Dayton, whose internationally acclaimed works examine cultural identities held inside — and outside — the global mainstream. From the dense flower collages that launched his career some two decades ago to surfboards, shark fins and rock n’ roll, Dayton’s vision is one in which the viscera of the American aesthetic collides with its formal, Modernist traditions.

“Dayton adds his artistic voice to this new world order. Each series – the flowers, surfboards and white women – speak to the slippage of meaning.” – John McWhinnie, East Hampton, 2007

The “slippage of meaning” referenced by the late John McWhinnie is key to Dayton’s oeuvre, and it lends to the work a cool and canny velocity that bounces handily between fact and fiction. Dayton slices through pop culture without blinking, appropriating not only its imagery but the youthful dreams and blazing seductions that come with it. His flower collages reach a level of excess that is downright prurient but, like pornography, these flowers are less about floral idioms than they are about artifice, myth-making and the glossy and overabundant utopia that exists within the artist’s eye. Dayton’s flowers are prettier than pretty, with color sets so punchy they seem to exude a steamy perfume. Other of his flower iterations radiate glamour and temptation. The Chanel paintings, an orgy of camellia blossoms, gilding and crisp black and white renderings ooze a casual chic while the Blurs, all-over assemblages of color saturated blooms avow a tantalizing, if bleary, luminosity.

In other bodies of work Dayton straddles high and low culture, trading on one or the other with cheeky nonchalance. His surfboard paintings are a pastiche of big wave culture, fantasy and Post-painterly abstraction, the term created by Clement Greenberg, one of the most influential art critics of the last century. Greenberg plotted a progression of American painting that would side-step Pop Art, offering a trajectory that was more deferential to Abstract Expressionism. The leaner, less self-conscious modality of Post-painterly abstraction resulted in one of the great provocations in art history; it included artists such as Gene Davis, Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland. Riffing on this historic friction in the art world, Dayton’s surfboard paintings marry the flatness of Greenberg-sanctioned painting with the high gloss of a brisk market economy. The compositions flip between bona fides and satire – they are neither surfboards nor are they paintings in a conventional sense – and their stripy facades and ersatz decals create a supernova of art world folklore, sunshine and sex wax.

In his Rock n’ Roll series Dayton devours both the patois and the idolatry associated with the music industry, creating silky vinyl discs and immense record jackets in tribute to some of the great punk rock bands of his generation. Here the artist’s enthusiasm is unfeigned – devotional, even – as it underscores the sweaty complexities of pubescence, cultural heroism and raw musical talent. But meaning is slippery here, too, as the B-side of Dayton’s hero worship reveals his blatant appropriation of record labels, industry design and the business of being famous. Less tongue-in-cheek than other works from this period, it’s clear that Dayton has one foot firmly planted in the romance of rock n’ roll as well as its ideology.

Peter Dayton holds a BFA from Tufts University and has studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Rochester Institute of Technology (with Nam Jun Paik), and the Master Workshop of Fine Arts, Southampton, New York. Born in 1955 in New York City, Dayton currently resides in East Hampton, New York. His work is represented internationally in many public and private collections including Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Chanel USA and Chanel Ginza in Tokyo, Phillip Morris & Company, New York, Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, New York and The Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York.