June Kelly Gallery

Carmen Cicero Bio

 

An exhibition of Figurative Expressionist paintings from the 1960s and 1980s that unflinchingly reflect the artist’s outlook on life then, as relatable to our current-day script, will open at the June Kelly Gallery, 166 Mercer Street, on Friday, March 9.  Most of these pieces have not been shown in New York since the 1980s; some have never been displayed.  The exhibition will remain on view through April 10.

Carmen Cicero’s exhibition title, Battle of the Sexes 1965-1982, could be interpreted as provocation that divulges his decades long angst and agitation producing work revealing undisguised issues and storylines.  Today these cutting-edge works prompt scrutiny in light of contemporary clashes between the sexes.

The artist arrived in New York in 1971 after a devastating fire that destroyed his studio in Englewood, New Jersey.  He lost all of his canvases, press clippings and other records in the flames, but he was able to begin again in his new loft on the Bowery.  The Bowery, at that time, was filled with flophouses and homeless men and was New York’s "Skid Row.”  Cicero began to formulate his ideas into new themes from which he produced colorful, manic paintings, like giant drawings of comic book pages.

These enigmatic paintings are deeply personal and expose the surreal alliances that the artist postulates among his characters, replete with double entendres.  The results are original, quirky and hypnotic.  He brings a remarkable inventiveness to his work, and his symbolism stirs a sense of mystery and foreboding.

Ever faithful to his subjects, Cicero’s language of expression pointedly describe comic apparitions with candor that reflect his reverence for life’s veracities and vagaries.

Some of the artist’s paintings teeter on the edge of total abstraction, though he never allows visual language to lose contact with his motif.  His images are hard-won.  They start from the subject and push detail forcibly to the edge via expressive brushwork.

Cicero’s use of humor is coupled with his search for deeper meaning.  The stinging bluntness in the artist’s imagery produces an effect of eerie quietude in the viewer.  He has always been concerned with what he observes as disturbing occurrences between the sexes, which in our time have become more commonplace.

Cicero is the master storyteller, with endless commentaries about life, as seen in his oversize canvas entitled Battle of the Sexes I, 1972, in which a female appears startled and falls backward from a physical blow delivered by an angry male.  Or, in Flying Down to Rio, 1982, in which interaction between a bare breasted female and a masculine seducer (does this woman enjoy his caresses?).  These evocative scenarios suggestive of continuing issues between the sexes are painted with Cicero’s meticulous detail with bursting contours, blazing color, and spontaneous yet erratic brushstrokes.  Suspension of emotion is in each Cicero work, as if one becomes captive awaiting a turn of events.

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, 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.

 

Born Newark, New Jersey
Lives and works in New York City

Education
1991 MFA, Montclair State College, NJ
1952 Graduate Studies with Robert Motherwell, Hunter College, NY
1947-1951 BA, Newark State Teachers College, Newark, NJ

Solo Exhibitions
2018 Battle of the Sexes 1965-1982, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2015 Carmen Cicero: Early Works: 1970s-1980s, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2012 Visionary Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
Carmen Cicero: The Visionary Work, curated by William Evaul, Provincetown Art
  Association and Museum, MA
2010 Carmen Cicero: Watercolors, The Shore Gallery, Provincetown, MA
In the Still of the Night: New Paintings
, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2007 Things That Happen In the Moonlight: Watercolors, June Kelly Gallery; catalogue
2004 New Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York; catalogue
2001 Recent Work, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2000 Carmen Cicero: A Survey of Paintings, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA;
  catalogue
Carmen Cicero: Watercolors, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1998 Recent Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
Paintings and Watercolors, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1997 Long Point Gallery, Provincetown, MA
1995 Paintings and Watercolors, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1993 New Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1991 Montclair State College Art Gallery, Montclair, NJ
1990 Paintings and Watercolors, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1988 Paintings, Graham Modern Gallery, New York
Watercolors, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1987 Watercolors and Sculpture, Graham Modern Gallery, New York
1986 Cherrystone Gallery, Wellfleet, MA
1985 Recent Paintings, Graham Modern Gallery, New York
1984 Paintings and Drawings, 1975-1984, Graham Modern Gallery, New York
1983 Art Academy, Museum of Cincinnati, OH
1982 Gracie Mansion Gallery, New York
1979 Gurewitsch Gallery, New York
1978 Dubins Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1976 Caldwell College, Caldwell, NJ
1975 Leslie Rankow Gallery, New York
1972 Simone Stern Gallery, New Orleans, LA
1970 Wellfleet Art Gallery, Cape Cod, MA and Palm Beach, FL
Drawings and Serigraphs, New School for Social Research, NY
1968 Peridot Gallery, New York
Galleri Promenade, Tromso, Norway
1967 Galerie Puntvier, Rotterdam, Holland
1966 Drawings & Gouaches, American Gallery, NY
1957 Peridot Gallery, New York

Selected Group Exhibitions
2017 Celebrating 30 Years, Gallery Artists: Drawing and Photography, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2012 Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960, Solomon R.
  Guggenheim Museum; travelled to the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen,
  Netherlands; catalogue
Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960, Solomon R.
  Guggenheim Museum; catalogue
Long Point: An Artists’ Place, curated by Mary E. Abell, Provincetown Art Association and
  Museum, MA; catalogue
Celebrating 25 Years, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2009 Hidden Gems: Works on Paper, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2007 THE 182ND ANNUAL EXHIBITION OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ART,
  National Academy Museum, New York; catalogue
2006 The Figure in American Painting and Drawing 1985-2005, Ogunquit Museum of American
  Art, ME; brochure
2005 180th Annual Exhibition, National Academy Museum, New York
Art Chicago In The Park, Chicago, IL
2004 Art Dealers Association of America, 69th Street Armory, New York
Art Chicago At The Pier, Chicago, IL
2001 Many Moons, curated by Barbara J. Bloemink, Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll
 
Garden, North Salem, NY
1998 Long Point Gallery at Fine Art Work Center, Hudson D. Walker Gallery, MA
A Tribute to Long Point Gallery, Cape Museum of Fine Arts, Dennis, MA
A Salute to the Long Point Gallery, Nardin Gallery, New York
Long Point Gallery at Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA
Contemporary Selections from The National Academy at Silvermine, New Silvermine Guild
  Galleries, New Canaan, CT
1997 The Artist’s Eye: Will Barnet Selects Portraits from the Permanent Collection, National Academy
  Museum, New York
Our Century: Selections,” Housatonic Museum of Art, The Burt Chernow Galleries,
  Bridgeport, CT
20th Anniversary Exhibition, The Long Point Gallery, Provincetown, MA
American Academy Invitational Exhibition of Painting & Sculpture, The American Academy of
  Arts and Letters, New York

Selected Public Collections
Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Cahoon Museum of American Art, Cotuit, MA
George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, MA
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
National Academy of Design Museum, New York
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY
Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Montclair Art Museum, NJ
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA
The University of Michigan, Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA
Musei Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Holland
Jacobs, Visconsi & Jacobs, Cleveland, OH
La Mont Gallery, Exter Academy, NH
West Publishing Company, St. Paul, MN

Fellowships and Awards
2016 Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters,
  New York
2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA
2007 Lifetime Achievement Award, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York
1997 American Academy of Arts & Letters, Purchase Prize
1965 Ford Foundation Purchase Prize
1963 Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
1961 Ford Foundation Purchase Prize
1957 Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship

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