Peter Warren, Hot Lips Royale, 2009, sand bag material, caution tape from Royal Liquor shooting, thread, packing tape, 9 x 12".

Peter Warren, Mesa family tree, January 2012, cardboard, masking tape, spray paint, 12 x18".

Finding and Releasing the Muse in the Chaos

The Late Show
0 Cherry
Kansas City
Peter Warren
Elvis Has Left the Building

March 2-April 6, 2012


During the summer of 2010, Peter Warren was in Stavangen, Norway, on a three-week residency as a set designer. He was sponsored by the Norweigan government and a group called Tou Scene. The two organizations had taken over an old brewery and sponsored art, music and experimental theater productions. Reading the newspaper while enjoying the seasonal two-and-a-half hour sunset, a headline caught Warren's eye: "Se Opp For Rotemannen!" (Watch Out For Messyman!) The city had been experiencing a series of events wherein a man would break into a home and turn into a human cyclone, vandalizing everything he touched, then, seized with the clarity of remorse, he would stop, sit down, and write a note to the homeowners apologizing for what he'd done.

“The reason I loved this, was because this guy was in a chaotic and crazy state, like a tornado wrecking things, then in a moment of focus, where he is grounded, he writes the letter,” says Warren. “I have always been a Messyman kind of creator – there is a storm of creativity, then moments of clarity where it makes some sense.” Peter Warren's Kansas City, Missouri, studio is called Rotemannen Studio to remind himself of the maelstrom of passion it takes to reach his goals.

In Warren's current storm of creativity, he is dismantling his studio and creating art out of everything: champagne bottle foil and wires, parts from old organ bellows he took from a church in New York, a doll he found wired to a fence, boards from the old Late Night Theater sign he found in the dumpster. He even tore down some of his walls and used the 2x4s to make frames. His works on cardboard are made from photographs of his own work and pictures from the internet, cut out and used as stencils through which he has spray painted images such as Elvis Presley as a child in a cowboy hat, in a mug shot, singing, and as an actor. The frames were made from boards ripped down from his studio, “because I felt they were supposed to be part of it,” says Warren.

Looking around Warren’s studio and at his work, one is reminded of Robert Atkins’ remarks in ArtSpeak about scatter artists. He says they “… are united by a stylistic approach relying on evocative juxtapositions of materials which often suggests the beauty available in the banal detritus of contemporary urban life.” Warren may not be a scatter artist, but his work is a combination of Nouveau Réalisme, kinetic sculpture, Readymade, assemblage, conceptual art and found object. He is a dumpster diver, scavenger, forager, collector, and salvage man. His studio is filled with old suitcases, televisions, light fixtures, telephone parts, furniture, and piles of tin and unidentifiable objects. He makes use of old telephone book pages and tin panels in doing everything from fashioning clothing and accessories to upholstering furniture.

Near the beginning of the new millenium, Warren had a reading from Penny Farrow, a Vedic astrologist. Farrow explained to him that based on the position of the planets, the star Rahu, the date, and time of his birth, that he had incredible creative capacity but dark and self-destructive tendencies. Warren began to tell Farrow of a dream to make a coat of Elvis lottery tickets, and she said that Elvis also represented the qualities of Rahu: the creativity, and the darkness and destruction, which ultimately lead to his death. “Of course,” Farrow told Warren, “Rahu can also be directly related to trash.” This idea led Warren to create an equation that would inform his connection with Elvis in his art work:


If Elvis represented all that was creative: Elvis=Rahu
If Rahu represents trash: Rahu=Trash
Therefore: Elvis=Trash

In time, these ideas would lead Warren to combine his love of trash, his passion for creativity and his dark side when making art. “I try to notice when each is to be exalted,” says Warren. “I want to take advantage of the positive that resides in all of them.”

The star of the show is a full-sized, three-quarter-length suit coat with a turned up collar made from over a hundred unscratched $2 Elvis commemorative California lottery tickets, lined with a white-silk lamination, which twirls over its custom-made (from airplane parts) spotlight; an inspired hunk of burnin' love, fitting homage to the King. Additional miniature jackets are made from laminated plastic, caution tape, wall paper, and woven-mesh plastic bags. Each one with its own haunting presence shaping a macho stance, displayed on individual pedestals.

Golden Teddy, a grouping of nine golden Elvis suits, made from the foil and metal caps saved from champagne bottles, suspended from wires (also from the champagne) skydive out at the viewer with arms spread wide. Warren created this as a tribute to a friend, named Teddy, who died on his birthday in 1997 when his parachute did not open. “When he realized his chute wouldn't open, Teddy would have spread out his arms and enjoyed the ride,” says Warren. “He was the kind of guy who wanted to live until he died.”

Other pieces on cardboard include images of water towers, bicycle wheels, and figures spray painted in colors of royal blue, red, yellow and black, over photographs Warren cut away. In a series of works with headless groupings of suited figures standing over tables titled with various versions of Mesa Family Tree, Warren again uses the stencil process spray-painting through cut-outs of photos on cardboard, effectively incorporating textured backgrounds made from puzzle-like pieces of masking tape. Another sculpture series, (Untitled # 1 and #2), made from the old organ bellows and discarded boards from the former Late Night Theater sign, appear to be tall buildings with over-sized humans, made from champagne wires, leaping from them — leaping up into the sky to fly like Teddy, or perhaps leaping off of the buildings to their deaths. It’s difficult to know, but Warren was an eyewitness to the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City. The long term effects are beginning to be seen in artists' work, and one hopes will continue to help viewers puzzle out the collective post-traumatic stress from this tragic day.

If perhaps this show looks a bit put together at the last moment, it was. Warren, a Studios Inc. artist, will present his solo show, a red-hot, packed-full show titled Se Opp For Rotemannen! (Watch Out for Messyman!), opens May 4, 2012, at Studios Inc, 1708 Campbell in Kansas City, Missouri. The Late Show exhibit represents the beginnings — what the tornado has flung out while Warren whirls around his studio making art out of everything he finds. “This show is like the notes out of my book,” says Warren. “It is like pages out of my journal.”

Peter Warren, when I was young, December 2011, cardboard, masking tape, spray paint, 12 x12".


Peter Warren, untitled, December 2011, cardboard, masking tape, spray paint, 12 x 18".