Albert Leo Peil
1946 – 2019
Albert Leo Peil is born in 1946 in Berlin, Germany. At the age of 15, he moves to Lauf an der Pegnitz, a small town in the Franconia region of Bavaria. At the Academy of Visual Arts in Nuremberg, he studies under the abstract painter Ernst Weil, but drops out after just two semesters. He completes an apprenticeship to become a decorator and subsequently makes a living through a series of menial jobs, including one at a local sewage treatment plant. This less than glamorous professional life did not prevent Peil from following in the footsteps of previous avant-gardists and blurring the lines between art and life. For instance, the artist’s estate contains a number of eccentric costumes, such as a suit tailored from faux wolf’s fur. There are also a number of leather ensembles that combine features of religious vestments with aspects of fetish gear. According to eye witnesses, Peil became a notable presence in the cityscape of Lauf by wearing these outfits, as well as clouds of perfume, on a daily basis. Other pieces contained in the estate also hint at Peil’s continuous balancing act between pious work ethic and intense carnal desires. Idealized male figures populate the psychedelic landscapes of Peil’s drawings, but their virility seems to be as much a spiritual as an erotic matter. It is impossible to decide beyond any doubt whether the artist construed these figures as idealized alter egos or as objects of his desire. The estate also contains a wooden cross decorated with chased copper plates as well as a similarly decorated chest that resembles nothing so much as a medieval reliquary shrine.
The largest part of Peil’s oeuvre is the product of his seemingly tireless drawing practice. Until his death in 2019, he carefully cataloged hundreds of drawings in binders. Drawn in ink and only occasionally colored, the sheets trace the development of Peil’s his singular style over the course of many years. An especially remarkable feature of his mature techniques is a unique brand of drawn pointillism. In some of Peil’s most accomplished works, seemingly chaotic ink dots slowly coalesce into clear forms. In this way, the artist replaces the conventional idea of an artistic hand with the suggestion that his forms emerge from autopoietic natural processes. The relationship between Peil and his audience constituted another balancing act. On the one hand, his drawings seem largely uninterested in being understood or even decoded by any outside public. On the other hand, Peil never closed himself off to the world of productivity and consumption. On the verso of many drawings, he signals his epicurean interest in the outside world through scribbled, quasi-encyclopedic lists of popular artists, actors, musicians, fashion designers, and cosmetics brands. In a few cases, Peil even explicitly quotes elements from the world of fashion and luxury. The eyeglasses and headpieces donned by his male protagonists, for example, closely resemble the leather and plastic masks the French designer Pierre Cardin designed for his famous space age collections in the 1960s. From his perch in the Greater Nuremberg area, Peil imagined himself as part of a scene of creatives in Paris and New York, who seemed to share his dream of escaping to arcadian future worlds.