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It is like rusted iron and it is like dried blood.

For me, this is not about information.

When I say "elemental," I mean the powers of nature, primary, not combined with another element.

Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter were students at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in the 1960's. Blinky Palermo (born Peter Schwarze, 1943, Leipzig) was one of Joseph Beuys's master pupils.

I make a color I call Düsseldorf red with oil-based lithographic inks by mixing yellow-ochre and vermilion. No black or white. The first time, it took me nearly three hours to get the proportions right. I make it from memory; I don't want to match a reproduction of any other version.

More than one-third of the paintings in Palermo's catalogue raisonn include variations of this color, an homage to Beuys.

The periodic table, Fe, in particular.

The ground used in many Renaissance paintings is the color Düsseldorf red.

Iron oxide pigment, spray primers, photo opaque.

Joseph Beuys was perhaps the most important artist to emerge from Europe after World War II.

Someone, a doctor, told me that you could taste the iron in blood. I have since found this to be true.

During an afternoon in the library I look at reproductions of Beuys's Braunkreuz, 1962, Condensed Field in Braunkreuz, 1963, Braunkreuz, 1964, For Brown Environment I, 1964, For Brown Environment II, 1964.

Braunkreuz translates literally as brown-cross. It is a "live" medium, elemental, the color is a description of itself and its treacherous activity. Not only a color designed and chosen, but a description of its material, iron.

Düsseldorf red is alive, and it kills.

Beuys often recounted the story of his plane crash in 1943 as the source of his iconography and explanation for his signature materials. ("Joseph Beuys was a Stuka pilot in World War II.")

Rust is the violent decay of metal.

"Everything here changes and nothing appears to."

Blinky Palermo died in Sri Lanka, February 23, 1977, age thirty-four.

In the spring of 2002, I made a series of three lithographs (Untitled) inspired by Düsseldorf red. The first layer of each print was painted on stones with tusche, a roughly fifteen-inch square composed of horizontal stripes. This flat, or background, is printed in Düsseldorf red, mustard yellow, and pale gray-blue. The three line drawings printed as the second layer are dark hues of green, blue, and brown, respectively. These colors read as black from a middle distance. The drawings are each of a different type of rose, based on antique botanical prints. The images float, they appear flat, without depth, unfinished, rushed. Yet the process of lithography -- etching drawn and painted marks on stones, mixing ink, preparing paper and registering images, applying ink to the image on the stone, working the press -- is the most time consuming of all mechanical printing techniques.

It is not maroon. It is not burnt umber. It is nearly oxblood.

There is a variation in Beuys called brown.

There is another variation in Palermo called brown-ochre.

Associations with the past.

People talk about experimenting, but I like to get things right.

Beuys invented Braunkreuz in the early 1960's. He mixed ordinary house paint with the blood of a hare. The result is an opaque, reddish-brown substance he didn't consider a color, but rather a generic medium for sculptural expression. It became a metaphor for the earth as a protective medium, and it evoked the image of rust, dirt, dried blood, or excrement.

Christianity, German militarism, Nazism, emergency, war.

For me, it is about the transformation of all things.

"The lithography stones are Bavarian limestone, prized for their high percentage of calcium carbonate (94-98%). This makes them very receptive to water."

Oil and water don't mix.

Rust is oxidized iron.

I transferred my three rose drawings onto stones using iron oxide pigment. First, you cover one side of a sheet of newsprint with a thin layer of iron oxide. Then, tape the sheet to the stone, iron oxide face down. When you draw on the blank side, it leaves a Düsseldorf red mark that will not resist water, as the greasy crayons or tusche will.

These highly calcified stones often contain small fossils, like prehistoric graveyards.

Many hours pass. I don't want to overplan my work, but one does hope to guard against serious mistakes.




düsseldorf red