Jamaal Peterman USA, b. 1990


Jamaal Peterman is an American painter whose work engages the formal strategies of abstraction to address the representation of bodies—particularly Black bodies—within urban landscapes.


"I’m thinking about class, wealth, proximity of Black wealth in certain environments,” Peterman says, “and using lines, shapes, colorant icons and symbols to break down various codes and ways you move throughout the community."


Peterman uses various textures and pared down forms to evoke a world in which Black bodies are reduced and flattened amid monolithic systems and structures. Bright, luminous colors lend the work a childlike simplicity and joy, while the imagery itself is highly unsettling, suggesting an entire visual culture based on an elaborate game.


Though fundamentally abstract and symbolic, Peterman’s visual language represents a decoding of actual realities in contemporary culture. Viewers perceive the people in Peterman’s compositions as absent of humanity, reduced to flattened fields of color; meanwhile, impenetrable structures surround these flattened bodies amid landscapes dominated by networks of interconnected, impenetrable, empty facades.


Peterman earned a BFA from University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and an MFA from Pratt Institute. Recent exhibitions include Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work has been featured twice in New American Painting. Recent residencies include MASS MoCA Residency; Wassaic Project Residency, and Fountainhead Residency.