June Kelly Gallery

Carmen Cicero
Early Works: 1970-1980s

Carmen Cicero - Man with Mask, 1987 - Acrylic on canvas - 24 x 20 inches

Man with Mask, 1987
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 20 inches

 An exhibition of paintings and watercolors by New York artist Carmen Cicero, works filled with mystery, satire and edgy images of life, will open at the June Kelly Gallery on Friday, March 6.  The exhibition will remain on view through April 7.

The exhibition, entitled Early Works: 1970s-1980s, reveals Cicero’s tensions and agitation as bare and unsugarcoated truth.  He combines pointed candor with comic apparitions that reflect his reverence for life’s veracities and vagaries, his obsession with storytelling, and the humor he finds in our lives.

Cicero’s art has been on the cutting edge for more than 40 years.  He arrived in New York in the early 70s after a devastating fire that destroyed his studio in Englewood, NJ.  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, then an even grittier neighborhood than it is today, was filled with flophouses and bums 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.  The paintings are deeply personal, yet enigmatic, and expose the surreal alliances that he postulates among his subjects, 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.  He gives fresh evidence of his creative vitality in this exhibition.

Cicero’s use of humor with frankness is coupled with his search for deeper meaning.  His tone and spirit produce eerie quietude and stinging bluntness but also create mystery and curiosity for an explanation for these unusual and strange happenings.

Cicero is master storyteller with his commentaries about life, as shown in his oversize canvas entitled The Surprise in the Window, 1981, in which guests at a party are horror struck when a caped figure in white outline appears against the dark skies in the window of a penthouse apartment.  Or, in Crime, 1976, in which Cicero’s thick maze of colorful lines gives us an angry figure with a knife who seems to offer no way to avoid a figurative or literal onslaught.  These evocative scenarios are painted with Cicero’s meticulous detail with color, line and careful brushstrokes.  There is a suspension of emotion, as if one were waiting for a turn of events.

A native of New Jersey, Cicero holds a BA from Newark State Teachers College and an MFA from Montclair State.  He lives in New York City and 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 2012 Carmen Cicero received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.  A recent monograph, The Art of Carmen Cicero was published in 2013 by Schiffer Publishing in Atglen, PA.


Click on thumbnail for larger image.

The Surprise in the Window - 1981

Crime - 1976

Prince Charming - 1981

To Carmen Cicero Bio

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