June Kelly Gallery


Carmen Cicero
The Human Condition

Carmen Cicero - Cicero - Man of Her Dreams, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 inches

Man of Her Dreams, 2019
Acrylic on canvas
60 x 72 inches


The Human Condition, an exhibition of figurative expressionism revealing Carmen Cicero’s humorous and storytelling approach to creating paintings that evoke contemplation about events common to most lives, and some which are inevitable for all, will open at the June Kelly Gallery, 166 Mercer Street, on Friday, November 20.  The exhibition will remain on view through December 30, 2020.

Understanding the precise nature and scope of what is meant by human condition is a philosophical problem, yet we grasp the meaning as embodying the whole of the experience of being human and living human lives.  There are biologically determined events common to all such as birth and death.  Within experiences of the human condition are the senses described as joy, fright and other emotions associated with actuality.

Cicero presents with gaily sarcastic humor a world of multiple and sometimes contra-dictory feelings, unfulfilled desires, jealousy, despair, and isolation.  (The Dark Hills of Broken Dreams, 2015).  His images incite pursuit to understand the human condition which dates back to humans’ first attempts to comprehend themselves and their place in the universe.

Art writer John Yau describes Cicero’s paintings as bold and exuberant, as mastery of nuance within an audacious pictorial statement.  Cicero divulges his decades long angst and agitation producing work revealing undisguised issues and storylines. He enlightens by mocking that which is objectionable. (New Yorker Talking to Himself, 2019)

Northrop Frye, Canadian literary critic said “the seasonal rites that celebrate yearly cycle of birth, death, and rebirth are seen as basis for the generic plots of comedy, romance, tragedy, irony and satire.  Cicero continues to bring a remarkable inventiveness to his work, with wit that stirs a sense of mystery and foreshadowing.  Typically, his paintings evoke lightning like moments when recognition becomes illuminated, and whereby the development of his visual argument replaces illusion with perceptible reality.  Cicero uses calculatedly dramatic figurative forms to convey a serious statement.  Enigmatic paintings expose surreal alliances that the artist proposes among his characters, replete with double entendres.  The results are original, quirky, and often hypnotic.

Cicero’s language of expression emphatically describes comic apparitions with candor that reflect his reverence for life’s veracities and vagaries.  For Cicero, the use of humor is coupled with his search for deeper meaning.  Stinging dubiousness in the artist’s imagery produces an effect of eerie quietude and much contemplation in the viewer.

Marcel Duchamp said, “I have drawn people’s attention to the fact that art is a mirage.”  If indeed Cicero intends his work to have similar effect, it is visually riveting, in some instances, comedic, until the viewer realizes the truth…the substance of his statement.

Cicero says, Most art concerns human behavior: Love, Hate, Passion, Lust, Greed, Betrayal, etc. Human behavior seems finite, changing little through the centuries.  That is why we still understand the art of Shakespeare, Giotto, and Leonardo. Artists of all epochs work with themes pertaining to human nature.  There is strong evidence of this in the etchings of Goya, the religious paintings of the Renaissance and the Dutch painters during the time of Vermeer—which brings to mind the words of Andre Malraux: “It is what is human in art that lasts.” For me, painting is the act of finding inner truth and revealing this truth in the language of painting. Throughout my career, I have made paintings about very inflammatory subjects such as race, feminism, crime.  Further, he says, artists tell how it is; moralists tell how it ought to be.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Cicero holds a BA from Newark State Teachers College and an MFA from Montclair State University.  He lives in New York City and summers in Truro on Cape Cod.  He is also an accomplished jazz musician.

His work is represented in numerous public, corporate and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Newark Museum, Montclair Museum of Art, National Academy Museum, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA; West Publishing Company, St. Paul, MN; and Musei Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

In 2016 Carmen Cicero received the Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2012 Carmen Cicero received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and in 2007, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. A monograph, “The Art of Carmen Cicero,” was published in 2013 by Schiffer Publishing in Atglen, PA.


Click on thumbnail for larger image.

Deception - 2020

New Yorker Talking to Himself - 2019

Hesitation - 2017

New Yorker in Yellow Coat - 2019

Accusations - 2019

Dancing by the Light of the Moon - 2019

 To Carmen Cicero Bio

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