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Kevin Peterson's painting charms Red Hot Chili Peppers

May 10, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

MOCA Jacksonville visitors were captivated by Kevin Peterson's hyper-realistic paintings of gritty, graffiti-covered backgrounds juxtaposed with irresistible, angelic children in 2014's Get Real: New American Painting. MOCA Jacksonville acquired one of Peterson's paintings, Street Light, from that exhibition for the Permanent Collection.

Kevin Peterson Coalition II Painting b
Kevin Peterson, Coalition II, 17.5 x 36 inches, oil on panel. Courtesy of the artist and Thinkspace Gallery.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers seem to have had the same reaction. The band's manager reached out to Peterson about using one of his paintings, Coalition II, for the cover of the Chili Peppers' new album The Getaway, which comes out June 17. The painting depicts a young girl strolling down a deserted, graffiti-strewn street, accompanied by a giant black bear, a raccoon, and a fox. A crow perches atop a yellow parking pole.

 

We emailed Peterson to get the story behind the album cover and to catch up with what he's been doing since Get Real.

Kevin Peterson Portrait at MOCA c
Peterson attends the opening of Get Real: New American Painting at MOCA Jacksonville in 2014. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

How did the Red Hot Chili Peppers choose Coalition II   for their album The Getaway?

I don't know a lot of details. I believe the lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, saw an image of the piece and really liked it; he shared it with the bass player, Flea, who liked it as well. At this point, they didn't even know the artist; but Flea posted the image on his Twitter account, and some of his followers quickly pointed him in my direction.

The announcement of the album's release has been huge. What do you think about the reaction to your work on the cover?

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. It has turned a whole new cross section of people onto my work, which is wonderful. I will say that when your work becomes more widely seen, that also opens the door to more criticism as well. It can be especially harsh in these days of anonymous comment sections on the internet. Being open to critique is a good thing as an artist, but I've learned only to give it weight from people I like and/or respect. I never read comment sections.

What have you been doing since your work appeared in Get Real?

Well, my wife and I had a baby boy one year ago, so that has been a big change. It's more challenging, but I'm still finding time to paint. I won The Hunting Art Prize last year, which is a big prize open to all Texas 2-D artists; that was amazing. I've shown work in Miami, London, Los Angeles, New York, and also the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana since Get Real.

Could you tell us how your work has evolved to include animals in addition to children?

I actually first painted animals in my urban settings in 2012. The animals always gave me a feeling of innocence similar to a child. I decided to combine the animals with the children as I was working on my solo show titled Remnants, which took place in November 2014. I think the impetus was a desire to give the children a tangible symbol for strength. I have always been a fan of imaginative realism as well, and wanted to create work that had elements of fantasy but appeared vivid.

Kevin Peterson Street Light Painting d
Peterson's Street Light is a visitor favorite in MOCA Jacksonville's Permanent Collection. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

Your painting Street Light is one of the most popular pieces in MOCA's Permanent Collection. What does it mean to have your work in a Museum's collection?

It is a huge honor. In terms of being an artist, to be part of a museum's collection is the pinnacle.

What are you working on now?

I have a solo show coming up in August at my gallery, Thinkspace, in Los Angeles. I've been focusing all of my attention on this show and will continue to right up until my deadline.

Do you have any exhibitions planned in the future?

In addition to Thinkspace in August, I'll have a few new pieces at SCOPE New York in March 2017. 

Kevin Peterson Get Real Catalog e
Peterson's work appears in the exhibition catalog for Get Real. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

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